Tuticorin custodial death: Madras HC directs police to provide protection to eyewitness
The HC bench spoke to the eyewitness, a head constable of Sathankulam police station.She testified on record that the father and son were beaten through the night on June 19. However, she sought anonymity as she was concerned about the repercussions she may face due to her testimony.Updated: Jul 03, 2020 18:01 IST
The Madurai bench of the Madras high court (HC) on Thursday ordered the police to send a lady police official, who is the key eyewitness in the alleged Tuticorin custodial father-son death case, on a month’s paid leave from July 1 and deputed four police constables outside her house for protection.
The HC bench spoke to the eyewitness, a head constable of Sathankulam police station, which had arrested the slain father Jayaraj (59), and his son J Bennicks (31), on June 19. She testified on record that the father and son were beaten through the night on June 19. However, she sought anonymity as she was concerned about the repercussions she may face due to her testimony.
“The court has assured me with all possible help,” the lady head constable told HT. “Police have been stationed in front of my house. My family and I are safe for now,” she added.Tamil Nadu’s Crime Branch, Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID), which is in-charge of the investigation, arrested inspector Sridhar, sub-inspector Balakrishnan and constable Murugan on Thursday in connection with the alleged custodial deaths of the father and son.
So far, five policemen have been charged under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in connection with the alleged custodial deaths based on the key eyewitness’s statement and preliminary post-mortem reports.
Sub-inspector Raghu Ganesh, who was under suspension, was arrested on Wednesday.On June 30, the court had observed that “there will be an attempt to intimidate her and make her resile her version” and directed the Thoothukudi district collector (DC) to immediately ensure safety for her and her family members. The CB CID is on the lookout for the fifth policeman, a constable.
DC Sandeep Nanduri had told HT that the eyewitness would go on a paid leave for a month, starting July 1. The district authorities would deploy four police constables -- two men and two women – in front of her house, he had said.It is not yet clear whether her parent’s home will receive any police protection.
“The court hasn’t given any specific direction [on Thursday regarding the security arrangements] and they seem to be satisfied with the arrangements,” Nanduri said.On June 28, the lady head constable had given her testimony to judicial magistrate of Kovilpatti, MS Barathidasan. She had recounted that Jayaraj and Bennicks were beaten from the night of their arrest on June 19 into the morning. Lathis and a table that were stained with blood should be seized, she had told the magistrate.
In its June 30 order, the court asked Barathidasan to hand over the lady head constable’s original statement to the investigating officer (IO) Anil Kumar, deputy superintendent of police, CB-CID, Tirunelveli, who will probe the case until the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) takes over.
Earlier, Jayaraj and his son J Bennicks were arrested by Sathankulam police station authorities on June 19 and lodged in Kovilpatti sub-jail for keeping their mobile phone shop in the Sathankulam main bazaar area open during a curfew imposed because of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) lockdown.
Initially, they were admitted to the Kovilpatti government hospital on June 22. While the son died on the same night, the father passed away the following morning.
The court also looked into the 10-crore three-year Police Wellbeing Programme which the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) Bengaluru was assigned to conduct for the Tamil Nadu state police starting 2018. The court on Thursday held a video conference with Dr Sekar, Nimhans registrar, Dr C Ramasubramaniam, nodal officer and Thamarai Kannan, ADGP- Welfare to study the progress of the programme. “Only through such wellbeing programmes can violent propensities in individuals be stymied,” the court said, urging the government to continue with it. “On the one hand, those responsible for the death of Bennicks and Jayaraj should not go scot-free and on the other hand, we cannot afford to lose any more Bennicks and Jayarajs to violence.”
The court further spoke to experts that Covid-19 pandemic is likely to increase mental illness amongst the society at large.