An advocate filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Madras High Court on Wednesday, alleging that over 500 suspected woodcutters from Tamil Nadu were in the custody of the Andhra Pradesh police, after being detained illegally in 2017.
Alleging that the men had been detained without informing the TN government, the PIL asked the court to take appropriate action against 'erring officials' from Andhra.
“It is reliably learnt that the Andhra Pradesh police never identified as police-on-duty while arresting those 500 persons without warrant. The persons who effected arrest did not wear uniform. They arrest persons as per their whims and fancies, take them to unknown places, torture them, and ultimately produce before a judicial magistrate in Andhra Pradesh after a few days or a week or even a month,” Advocate P Pugalenthi alleged in his petition.
The PIL is likely to come up for hearing on March 2.
This comes less than two weeks after the bodies of five men, who were found dead in an irrigation tank at Vontimitta village in Andhra's Kadapa district, were sent back to their native villages in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district.
There was widespread speculation that the men may have been woodcutters from another state, brought in by red sanders smugglers.
Initial reports had suggested that axes, torches and food items were found in their backpacks recovered near the lake. However, the police refuted these allegations and maintained that the men came to Kadapa from Salem in search of jobs, five days before their bodies were found.
At the time, Kurnool DIG G Srinivas had said, "As of now, there are no eyewitnesses to the incident. But, our primary investigation suggests that they drowned."
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had also expressed his sorrow over the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to their families.