The family members of the father and son who died of alleged torture in police custody, at Sathankulam near Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, have accused the judicial magistrate of sending them in remand without due process.
Magistrate P Saravanan sent P Jeyaraj (62) and J Bennix (32) into police custody on July 20. Two days later, they were dead.
S Joseph, who is married to Jeyaraj’s sister Jaya, says the two of them were present when Jeyaraj and Bennix were brought to the magistrate’s court, functioning out of his residence currently, around 11.45am. According to Joseph, they were visibly injured, with blood seeping through their clothes.
“The two were made to stand right at the entrance of the complex, near the gate, surrounded by seven-eight policemen. They were not taken inside. The magistrate appeared on the first floor, waving his hand at the policemen. An officer with Jeyaraj and Bennix shouted out, ‘Kovilpatti, remand’. And the magistrate cleared it.”
The two were then taken to the Kovilpatti Sub-Jail.
Asked about the way the remand hearing was allegedly conducted, Thoothukudi SP Arun Balagopalan said the ongoing judicial probe will be looking into all aspects of the case.
Former Madras High Court judge K Chandru said if true, it was a clear case of judicial misconduct and violation of the Supreme Court guidelines on arrest. “It is the duty of a magistrate to examine the accused. He should have asked them why they were injured and bleeding, if police had informed their relatives before the remand, and if they had a lawyer. These elementary constitutional rights should have been ensured by the magistrate,” Chandru said.
The family members have also questioned the role of the government hospital where Jeyaraj and Bennix were taken for medical examination before being produced before the magistrate. “A doctor who came to examine them did not do so properly, with policemen surrounding the two at all times,” said Joseph.
A senior government doctor in Chennai said the Sathankulam hospital doctor should have done a full examination, checked for injuries or any health issues. “Only after an examination can a doctor decide if medical intervention is needed. A doctor can even admit the person concerned if required and a remand hearing can be held at the hospital,” the doctor said, adding that the medical report has to be made available to the family.
Jeyaraj’s relatives say they never got one.
A senior police officer, who is aware of the preliminary probe and did not want to be quoted, earlier told The Indian Express that Jeyaraj and Bennix were kept at the hospital for about three hours to stabilise them and to reduce the bleeding.
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