A day after the custodial deaths of a father and son in Thoothukudi district came to light, Tamil Nadu DGP JK Tripathy issued a circular on the detention of accused persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The circular dated June 24 takes note of the custodial death of the father and son in Thoothukudi district “allegedly due to police excess”. It then goes on to mention that a few persons, who were recently arrested and sent to judicial custody, had tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, police officials who dealt with these accused persons had to be quarantined.
“Repeat of such situations (quarantining of more officials) in other police stations would create a very difficult situation for the police department as there would be inadequate staff to run the police stations,” states the circular and lists a few measures to be followed.
The DGP directs a suitable building equipped with proper facilities to be identified in each police sub-division to be used as a Sub Divisional Detention-cum-Production Centre. If there is no such building, the DGP orders the Assistant Commissioner of Police or Deputy Superintendent of Police’s office to be used for the purpose.
“The accused persons who are arrested in non-bailable offence and are to be produced in the Court shall be brought to this detention-cum-production centre directly rather than to the police stations for production before the Courts of Law,” it states.
An Inspector level officer will be posted at these centres and the accused being brought to this detention centre must have undergone post-arrest medical examination along with novel coronavirus screening. The number of police personnel involved in bringing the accused to the centre be kept to a minimum, the DGP orders.
According to the directions issued by the Madras High Court to the police department and all the Subordinate Courts, the police may produce a video taken during the production of the accused before the court, even if it is the first time of arrest.
Should the accused be remanded in judicial custody, then they will have to be taken to the respective prison only after undergoing COVID-19 test. If found positive, only the sub-inspector in-charge of the detention-cum-production centre and the police officers who were physically involved in arresting the person will be quarantined.
P Jayaraj and his son J Fennix, residents of Sathankulam in Thoothukudi district were picked up by the police on June 19 for defying lockdown norms and not closing their mobile phone shop and woodwork shop.
They were lodged at Kovilpatti sub jail for two days, where they were allegedly beaten up by the police. They were later taken to Kovilpatti government hospital, where they both died. Fennix died on June 22, while his father died in the early hours of June 23.
While the police have claimed that the two have died due to illness, family of the deceased have refuted their claims. Madras High Court has now sought a report from the police in this issue. The incident caused unrest in the district with the family of the deceased alleging custodial violence and strict action against the officials who caused it.