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Tamil Nadu govt to transfer probe into father-son duo’s custodial deaths to CBI

The death of Jeyaraj and Bennix due to alleged custodial torture in Sathankulam town in Tamil Nadu has triggered a national furore, leading to the suspension of four police officers, including two sub-inspectors.   

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 28, 2020 10:09:57 pm
Tamil Nadu custodial deaths, Tamil Nadu custodial death case, Tamil Nadu Police, Tamil Nadu lockdown, Tamil Nadu Jayaraj custodial death, Jayaraj and Bennix custodial deaths, India news, Indian Express Jeyaraj (left), his son Bennix died on June 22

The Tamil Nadu government has decided to transfer the probe into the alleged custodial death of father-son duo, P Jeyaraj and J Bennix, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswani said on Sunday.

“The state government decided to transfer the probe to CBI. We will do it after necessary consent and consultation with Madras High Court,” Palaniswani said after recalling the sequence of events. “The father and son were taken in custody in a case related to lockdown violation. They were remanded the next day and they died later. The Madras HC has taken suo moto proceedings,” he said.

The family members of Jeyaraj (62) and Bennix (32) said they did not want to comment on the development. “We will wait for the next hearing on Tuesday and see what the HC is saying,” said the family.

The death of Jeyaraj and Bennix due to alleged custodial torture in Sathankulam town near Thoothukudi has triggered a national furore, leading to the suspension of four police officers, including two sub-inspectors. A senior officer part of the police probe said initial findings show the two were stripped, tortured all of June 19-20 night and a baton inserted into their rectums. “Bennix had more bleeding than his father. Police reportedly set upon him after he tried to stop an officer from beating his father.”

The victims’ families have accused the judicial magistrate of sending them in remand without due process. Magistrate P Saravanan sent Jeyaraj and Bennix into police custody on July 20. Two days later, they were dead.

S Joseph, who is married to Jeyaraj’s sister Jaya, said the two of them were present when Jeyaraj and Bennix were brought to the magistrate’s court, functioning out of his residence currently, around 11.45 am. 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.”

Explained: How Tamil Nadu Police’s brutal act of revenge claimed lives of a father and son

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.

Even as two FIRs have been filed, no officer has been booked for murder charges. Aside from the suspension of four police officers, the station inspector has been transferred. A judicial inquiry is in progress, post mortem report has been submitted to the Madras High Court in a sealed cover, and the court is waiting for a report from police.

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