Court takes cognisance of CBI chargesheet in Tamil Nadu custodial deaths


Madurai, November 3: A Madurai court has taken cognisance of a CBI charge sheet against nine Tamil Nadu Police personnel in the custodial death case of a father-son duo in Thoothukudi district and directed that the accused be produced before it on November 11, officials said on Tuesday.

The CBI investigation has revealed “brutal torture” of shopkeepers J Benniks and his father R P Jeyaraj at the hands of the police personnel of the Sathankulam police station after an altercation over enforcement of lockdown guidelines in June, they said, NDTV reported.

In its charge sheet filed before the chief judicial magistrate of Madurai, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named the then inspector and station house officer S Sridhar, sub inspectors K Balakrishnan and P Raghuganesh, head constables S Murugan and A Samadurai, and constables M Muthuraja, S Chelladurai, X Thomas Francis and S Veilumuthu.

The CBI has slapped charges of murder and destruction of evidence against the police personnel, the officials said.

In total, 10 police personnel were named as accused in the case, but one of them died of COVID-19 during the course of the investigation.

The court took “on record” the CBI charge sheet, which was expeditiously filed within three months after an exhaustive investigation, and directed that all the nine accused be present in court on November 11, when the trial proceedings begin, the officials said.

They added that during the investigation, six officers of the nine-member CBI team probing the case had contracted COVID-19.

The CBI investigation revealed that the altercation between Jeyaraj, who owned a mobile shop, and two police constables, who were enforcing the lockdown, triggered the brutal incident on June 19 evening.

It is alleged that Jeyaraj was about to close his shop when the two police personnel from the Sathankulam police station were patrolling the area, the officials said while giving the findings of the CBI investigation.

Seeing his shop open, the police personnel asked him to close it, to which he replied that he was in the process of locking it, they said.

The police personnel later spotted that about 10 to 12 people were standing outside Jeyaraj’s shop, which they mistook as his customers, the officials said.

Jeyaraj had said that he had nothing to do with the people standing near his shop but the police personnel, who were allegedly on an “ego trip”, entered into an heated argument with the shopkeeper, they said.

The officials said after returning to the police station, these personnel narrated the incident and went back to the shop along with their colleagues. They picked up Jeyaraj, who was about to go home after locking his shop, they said.

On reaching the police station, the accused police personnel mercilessly started beating Jeyaraj, and his son Benniks also reached there.

Seeing the condition of his father, he questioned the police personnel, which allegedly infuriated them, the officials said, adding that they then shifted their attention to Benniks.

The torture allegedly continued for over seven hours at the police station with batons getting laced with blood and serious injuries inflicted on Jeyraj and Benniks, they said.

The officials said that after allegedly beating up Jeyaraj and Benniks, the police personnel sent them to a sub-jail under remand around 2.30 am on June 20. They were kept as prisoner — number 3636 and 3635 respectively — at the jail, they said.

The official said that around 7.45 am, Benniks complained of wheezing and was taken to the Kovilpatti government hospital in an autorickshaw.

It was alleged in the FIR that doctors declared at 9 am that he could not survive.

Two days later around 10.20 pm on June 22, Jeyaraj complained of fever and was taken to the government hospital. Around 5.40 am the next day, doctors told authorities that treatment had failed and Jeyaraj too had died, they said.

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