Thoothukudi custodial deaths: CBI charge sheet details six hours of inhumane torture
The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) charge sheet in the alleged custodial deaths of P Jeyaraj and J Bennicks details the inhumane six- hour torture of the father and son allegedly by nine police officers at Sathankulam police station in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.
The charge sheet, filed on September 25 against the nine police officers, said that after Jeyaraj, 59, was picked up by the police around 7:30 pm on June 19 for allegedly violating the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced-lockdown rules, his son Bennicks, 31, was asked to come to the police station to share further information.
When Bennicks saw his father was being roughed up at the police station, an altercation and a scuffle ensued between him and sub-inspector (S-I) Balakrishnan, following which the police personnel “decided to teach him a lesson on how to behave with the police”, according to the CBI charge sheet, a copy of which HT has seen.
Bennicks, too, was taken into custody and beaten even “more severely”, it said.
The CBI noted: “Whenever there used to be a lull, accused inspector S Sridhar used to prod the staff by asking about reasons for silence and instigating them further to start a fresh round of beating. Their clothes [of the two] were removed to add to the brutality of the torture. Both Jeyaraj and Bennicks, turn by turn, were made to bow down on a wooden table in their undergarments, their hands and legs were caught hold by the accused police officials so that they were not able to defend themselves.”
While being held in that position, “they were subjected to severe beatings with lathis on buttocks, back and other parts of the body,” the charge sheet said.
Jeyaraj cited his ill health—high blood pressure and diabetes—and begged to be spared of the beating, but his entreaties fell on deaf ears, the charge sheet said.
The accused police personnel persisted with several rounds of brutal torture between 7:45 pm on June 19 until 3:00 am on June 20, the charge sheet added.
The police personnel allegedly tried to hide their brutality and made Bennicks “clean the blood that had oozed from their wounds and scattered on the floor of the police station,” the CBI said.
A sweeper was asked by inspector Sridhar the following morning to clean the floor of the hall and other areas of the police station, the charge sheet said.
The accused police personnel filed a case against the father and the son for violating the lockdown restrictions after they realised that some advocates and eyewitnesses were present in the police station and had seen the torture.
A CBI probe has concluded that there was no violation of lockdown by the two.
A government hospital in Sathankulam had declared Jeyaraj and Bennicks “fit for remand” in police custody, despite being aware of the nature of their injuries.
The charge sheet said police personnel were compelled to change Jeyaraj and Bennicks’ bloodstained clothes twice as they were bleeding excessively, before taking them to the hospital and then to the court.
“But these clothes were thrown away by them [the accused police personnel] in a dustbin of the government hospital,” the charge sheet added.
The CBI noted the father and the son were limping and were not able to sit or walk properly because of severe injuries.
Bennicks died around 9 pm on June 22, while Jeyaraj at 5:30 am the following day.
The CBI has concluded that Jeyaraj and Bennicks were tortured by the police officers brutally, despite knowing that they would die of grievous injuries.
It cited the Tuticorin district magistrate’s order that had stated that shops in Sathankulam market could remain open until 8 pm. The police detained Jeyaraj at 7:30 pm.
All nine accused police officers are in jail.
S-I Paudurai, who was arrested by the CBI in the case in July, has since died of Covid-19.
Though his name does not figure among the accused in the charge sheet, his role is mentioned in the alleged conspiracy.