Tamil Nadu custodial deaths: 3 more police officers arrested on murder charges

Cheryl Sanders
July 2, 2020

Rajinikanth wrote on the micro blogging website, "I was shocked to know that the cops in Sathankulam police station refused to cooperate with the magistrate's probe in the inhumane brutal torture of police which killed the father-son duo".

Last Friday, Additional Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi, D Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi, C Prathapan, and three police officers involved in the Sathankulam incident appeared before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in the suo moto criminal contempt petition.

The court, which has taken up the case, had transferred the investigation to CB-CID till the CBI takes over the probe.

The Madras high court had said that based on the report of Kovilpatti judicial magistrate, especially the statement of a head constable of Sattankulam police station before the magistrate, a murder case can be registered against the police. Both died within two days of being released.

Police violence is both widespread and routine in India - a recent report says 1,700 people died in police custody in India in 2019, amounting to five deaths a day.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of Floyd, who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

The incident happened on June 19, when 59-year-old P Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennicks (Fenix) were picked up by the Sathankulam police in Thoothukoodi district for allegedly violating lockdown guidelines by keeping their cellphone shop open over business hours.

It also suspended two police officers and transferred several other officials.

A local court has been monitoring an investigation into the case, which has sparked protests in the state.

Almost 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The Kovilpatti judicial magistrate told the court that the hostility they faced at the police station eventually led them to leave the inquiry mid-way on Sunday. But it's rare that officers are held accountable.

What did the court say?

"This must end now".

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