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Sathankulam Custodial Deaths: Madras HC gives formal nod for CBI Probe, says it is a policy decision of the State [Read Order]

The Court was also informed that police at Sathankulam were not cooperating with the Magisterial inquiry into the custodial deaths, prompting the Court to direct the deputation of certain officials to aid with this probe

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court on Monday gave a formal nod for the State Government to transfer the probe into the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and his son Bennix to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The Bench of Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi, however, added that the question of whether the investigation should be handled by the CBI is the prerogative of the State government.

"... while we appreciate the deference shown to this Court by the State Government, we make it clear that, to transfer or not to transfer the case to the C.B.I., is the policy decision of the State Government and such a transfer is governed by the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946", the Court observed.

Last Wednesday, the Madurai Bench had decided suo motu to monitor the case, which involves allegations of police brutality, a mechanical remand by the judicial magistrate and inadequate medical treatment leading to the death of Jeyaraj and Bennix while in police custody (Registrar General (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court v. State of Tamil Nadu and ors).

The two were arrested on June 19 citing a violation of the COVID-19 curfew. A judicial inquiry into their deaths, under Section 176, CrPC, is now being conducted by the Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Kovilpatti.

In view of the State's decision to transfer the case investigation to the CBI, the Madurai High Court today issued certain directions to facilitate the process of transfer, if it happens:

  • The Registrar (Judicial) of the Madurai Bench is to take photocopies of the preliminary post mortem certificates for safe custody. The original post-mortem certificates are to be sent in a sealed cover to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who shall hand over the same to the CBI.

  • The post-mortem doctors are awaiting the Chemical Analysis, Histopathological examination and Microbiological examination reports, the Court noted. Only upon receipt of those reports, can the final opinion be given. Therefore, the Dean, Tirunelveli Medical College, has been directed to send the final opinion, to the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the CBI.

  • A copy of the final opinion shall also be sent to this Court in a sealed cover. The Director, Tamil Nadu Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Chennai, is directed to give top priority to the examination of the materials sent by the post-mortem doctors, so that they can give their final opinion at the earliest.

  • The Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti, shall send a copy of his report to this Court in a sealed cover and keep the original report with him in safe custody. The same is to be handed over to the Investigating Officer of the CBI.

  • The Court has also directed that the police case files pertaining to the original case against Jeyaraj and Bennix, as well as the case files concerning their custodial deaths, should be handed over to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the Investigating Officer of the CBI.

Sathankulam Police Station not cooperating with Magisterial Probe, HC told

The Court on Monday also took note of submissions that the police personnel in the Sathankulam Police Station are not co-operating with the Judicial Magistrate conducting the enquiry into the custodial deaths.

In view of the same, the Court has now ordered for the deputation of certain officials to aid the Magistrate in collecting materials and carrying out the probe. In this regard, the order states,

"Therefore, we direct the District Collector, Tuticorin, to depute Revenue Officers to the Sathankulam Police Station, for the purpose of preserving the clue materials. In this regard, we also direct the Assistant Director of Mobile Forensic Science Laboratory, Tuticorin, to immediately go the Sathankulam Police Station, to collect the clue materials and assist the learned Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti. If necessary, a team of forensic science experts from the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Tirunelveli, may also be requisitioned."

The suo motu case will be taken up again tomorrow when the Court is expected to be briefed on schemes in place to address the psychological needs of policemen and their family.

Oral queries over this issue had been posed by the High Court when the matter was taken up last week. In response, the State told the Court that a Police Well-being Programme was launched in 2018, in collaboration with NIMHANS, Bangalore, and for which a Rs 10 crores budget was allotted.

Additional Advocate General K Chellapandian is expected to tell the Court tomorrow whether this scheme is being continued or not.

Read the Order:

Registrar General (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court v. State of Tamil Nadu and ors)- June 29.pdf
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