The bodies of five men, who were found dead in an irrigation tank at Vontimitta village in Andhra Pradesh's Kadapa district, were sent back to their native villages in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district on Tuesday.
This came a day after Officer on Special Duty Adnan Naim Asmi told reporters that the men were believed to be from Karumandurai village in Salem district, and added that the bodies had been shifted for a post-morterm to the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Kadapa.
The police said that three ambulances arrived from Vellore, and the bodies were handed over to a police team from Tamil Nadu.
The men have been identified as Chinnappayi, Jayaraj and Kariappan. Two of the men were named Murugesan.
Meanwhile, in another development, the Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to listen to a plea that sought a second post-mortem of the five bodies, alleging that the process was carried out in a hurry under pressure from the Andhra Pradesh police.
The petitioner also alleged that there was very little possibility of all the five men drowning in the tank, as it was not very deep.
The court asked the petitioner to file a plea with the Hyderabad High Court, as the incident took place under its jurisdiction in Andhra Pradesh.
The petition was filed in the wake of widespread speculation that the men may have been woodcutters from another state, brought in by red sanders smugglers.
While the cause of death is yet to be officially established, 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 has expressed his sorrow over the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to their families.
On Saturday, locals spotted the bodies floating in Vontimitta lake on the Kadapa-Tirupati highway and alerted the police. The bodies were found in a decomposed state.
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.
In 2015, 20 red sanders woodcutters were killed by the police in the Seshachalam hill ranges near Tirupati in Chittoor district. Since then, the police have routinely arrested several smugglers and their workers who come from Tamil Nadu.
The Seshachalam forest is known for red sanders. The rare wood has a huge demand in the international market and is mainly used to make aphrodisiacs, musical instruments and furniture.