Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami
Litigation News

Sathankulam Custodial Deaths: SC dismisses plea urging that TN CM Edapaddi Palaniswami not hold Home Portfolio until completion of trial

The petitioner had alleged that a fair probe and trial in the case is not possible with the Chief Minister heading the Home Ministry as he had allegedly safeguarded the accused “by misusing his official capacity.”

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today dismissed the plea urging that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami be directed to refrain from holding the Home Portfolio in wake of the Sathankulam Custodial deaths (A Rajarajan v. Shri EK Palaniswamy and ors).

The Bench of CJI SA Bobde with Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna rejected the petition stating that the Court found no reason to entertain this plea.

"We see no reason to entertain this petition. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed."
Supreme Court

The plea had been moved by Advocate A Rajarajan seeking directions so that Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister is restrained from holding the portfolio of the Home Ministry till the completion of investigation and trial in the case involving the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and Bennix.

The PIL also sought a direction for the CBCID of Tamil Nadu Police to probe the role of Palaniswami in allegedly safeguarding the accused persons “by misusing his official capacity.”

The petitioner had alleged that a fair probe and trial in the case was not possible with the Chief Minister heading the Home Ministry. It was also contended that there was a need for probing his role in allegedly attempting to save the accused persons.

The allegations against the Chief Minister were made on the basis of a public statement made by Palaniswami on June 24 that the death of the father-son duo took place due to illnesses, thereby ruling out the role of the police or any foul play in the case.

This statement is “highly improper and condemnable”, the petitioner had said in the plea, adding further that the investigation in the case had not even begun when the Chief Minister made the said remarks.

The Chief Minister, as the administrative head, has executive control over the Police which is investigating the case. In this backdrop, the petitioner argued that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had acted to prevent any attack on the government in light of the Police brutality towards the victims. The PIL stated,

“... free and fair investigation is not at all possible under administrative leadership of the 1st respondent (Chief Minister Palaniswami) who is heading the home department and further the role of 1st respondent in screeing and safeguarding the persons accused of 302 IPC by using his official capacity have to be investigated.”

The petition had also stated that the Chief Minister should be charged under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code for being “actively involved in screening and safeguarding the accused persons.”

Jeyaraj and his son Bennix were arrested by the Sathankulam Police on June 19 for an alleged violation of lockdown norms by keeping their shop open till after the permitted hours.

The duo was allegedly beaten up and tortured barbarically by the Police officials while in custody and the two succumbed in a hospital shortly after. This led to an outrage and furore across the country highlighting the menace of police brutality in India.

The CBI has now taken over the probe in the case, which is also being monitored by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The High Court is due to take up the case next on July 28.

Read the Supreme Court Order:

A Rajarajan vs EPS - 16.07.2020.pdf
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