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Tuticorin custodial deaths: Madras HC says evidence may be destroyed before CBI begins probe

Chennai: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Tuesday directed Thoothukudi Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Anil Kumar and the Crime Branch of Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) to take up the investigation in the Thoothukudi custodial deaths case.

A division bench of justices, based on the preliminary postmortem report which notes evidence of wounds and judicial inquirer’s findings, also observed that there are sufficient grounds for the registration of a case against police officials in the matter. 

During the hearing, the court said that a large number of wounds were found on the bodies of Jayaraj and his son Fennix. The court also expressed doubt during the hearing that are possibilities that evidence gets destroyed before the CBI take the probe. The court also expressed shock over the way a judicial magistrate probing the custodial deaths was abused by cops at Sathankulam police station.

The remarks from the court amid reports that the accused cop allegedly didn’t cooperate with magistrate who was investigating the matter. The reports stated that cops not only refused to share related documents to officials but also passed abusive remarks. 

The High Court had also asked Tirunelveli Inspector General if it will be possible to take up the case until it is handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Earlier, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court had held that it will not interfere with the decision of the Tamil Nadu government to transfer the case related to the alleged custodial deaths of a father and son in Thoothukudi district to the CBI.

The court also sought a response within four weeks from Additional Deputy Superintendent of Police (ADSP), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and police officials on the judicial magistrate contempt issue.

In another development, Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi district Arun Balagopalan was removed from his position and kept under compulsory wait, without being assigned any other post, on Tuesday. Viluppuram SP S Jeyakumar has been posted as the new Thoothukudi SP.

P Jayaraj (59) and his son J Benicks (31) were arrested from outside their mobile shops on June 19 for violation of prohibitory orders and produced before the duty doctor of a government hospital at Sathankulam in Tuticorin district for mandatory medical-examination. The next day, a magistrate remanded them to judicial custody and they were lodged at the Kovilpatti sub-jail on June 21.

Bennicks was admitted at the government hospital in Kovilpatti by jail authorities on June 22 at 19.45 hours and he died at 21.00 hours while he was undergoing treatment. His father Jeyaraj was also admitted to the same facility at 22.30 hours on the same day and he died at 05.40 hours on June 23, the order said.

The father-son duo was accused of defying the lockdown curfew by keeping their mobile phone accessories shop in the Sathankulam main bazaar area open during the curfew timing. A case was also filed against the two under relevant charges for the same.

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