Chennai Police outside Madras High Court
Chennai Police outside Madras High Court
Litigation News

Sathankulam Custodial Deaths: Madras HC initiates contempt against 3 policemen, says fair enquiry difficult without transfer of police

Referring to an email from the Magistrate inquiring into the deaths, the Court observed that "the District Police... are doing everything within their command to prevent the Magistrate from proceeding with the enquiry."

Meera Emmanuel

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against three police officers found to have obstructed the Magistrate from conducting his probe into the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and his son, Bennix.

All three police officers have been ordered to present themselves before the Bench at 10.30 on Tuesday.

Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi were acting on an e-mail sent by the Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Kovilpatti. The Bench observed that a reading of the email "clearly shows that the District Police Administration are doing everything within their command to prevent the learned Magistrate from proceeding with the enquiry."

Under scrutiny now are Additional Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin D Kumar; Deputy Superintendent of Police, C Prathapan and Police Constable M Maharajan.

The Court was informed that after the ASP and DSP presented themselves before the Sathankulam Police Station, “in their very presence, the other policeman were taking videos of the Magisterial proceedings. The policemen were not giving the records called for by the learned Magistrate and it is seen that one of them viz. Maharajan, Police constable, Sathankulam Police Station had made a very disparaging remark in Tamil to the Learned Magistrate."

Apart from opining that this is sufficient for the Court to take cognisance of the criminal contempt, the Bench also opined that a transfer of police officials from the Sathankulam Police Station was crucial to a fair investigation into the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and Bennix.

"We are of the view that unless the State Government intervenes to immediately transfer the Additional Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin and other policemen in Sathankulam Police Station, it will be very difficult for a free and fair investigation and enquiry."
Madras High Court

The matter will be heard on Tuesday morning.

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.

Earlier today, the Court cleared the decks for the Government to hand over the case investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Following this, the Tamil Nadu Government has now notified its decision to transfer the case investigation into the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and Bennix over to the CBI.

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