HC orders protection to head constable who spoke up about Jayaraj-Bennix’s injuries

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court also put forward facts that prove the disadvantages of transferring the investigation to the CBI.
Jayaraj and Bennix
Jayaraj and Bennix
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The post-mortem reports of Jayaraj and Bennix, as well as the statement made by Sathankulam Head Constable’s statement, are prima facie enough grounds to alter the Sathankulam police brutality case to one under Section 302 (murder) Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Madras High Court said on Tuesday.

Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, passed an order on June 30, upon studying the post mortem reports of father-son Jayaraj and Bennix who died on June 22 and 23 due to police excess in custody. Their deaths have kicked up a hornet’s nest, exposing the high-handedness of the Tamil Nadu police.

The judges in their order have said that the woman head constable’s statement, where she spoke up about the injuries to the duo and the police lathis being covered in blood, should be recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC (Recording of confessions and statements) by a Judicial Magistrate, other than the Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate and Sathankulam Judicial Magistrate.

Further, keeping in mind the fears expressed by the head constable during the recording of her statement by the Kovilpatti Magistrate, the judges have also ordered the Thoothukudi Collector to immediately ensure the safety of the head constable and her family members.

“She may even be granted leave from duty as we fear that there will be attempt to intimidate her and make her resile from her version given to the learned Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti,” the court states in its order.

After having gone through the investigation report submitted by Kovilpatti Magistrate who visited the Sathankulam station on June 28, the judges note that his report is “indubitably disconcerting”.

The judges also make note that the documents pertaining to the torture and custodial death of Jayaraj-Bennix have been handed over to Anil Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police of the Crime Branch’s Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), Tirunelveli who will take over investigation immediately, without waiting for any formal order from the Director General of Police, Chennai. Anil Kumar was previously with the Special Branch, CID. Superintendent of Police, CB-CID, Tirunelveli will monitor the investigation.

In addition to stating that Sathankulam police have not been cooperating with the investigations, the judges also add, “We are able to discern that the Sathankulam police are taking advantage of the fact that the investigation of the case is in limbo and are attempting to cause disappearance of evidence. In fact, they were emboldened enough to even intimidate the judicial officer to put spokes in the wheel of his enquiry.”

The judges also make an important observation on the state government’s decision to transfer the case to the CBI.

“On account of the stalemate that has occasioned in the investigation due to the request made by the State Government for CBI investigation, we are constrained to step in and fill up the vacuum in order to ensure that precious evidence does not get dissipated.”

The judges, in their order, put forward facts that prove the disadvantages of transferring the investigation to the CBI.

“The CBI does not have an office in Thoothukudi or Tirunelveli but only at Madurai. The CBI is essentially an organisation equipped to deal effectively with corruption and white-collar offences. In the present lockdown situation owing to COVID-19 pandemic, it is not known how many CBI personnel will be drafted from other wings and made available to assist the Investigating Officer. The Investigating Officer should get acclimatised with the local terrain. On the flip side, the CBI does not even have a Special Public Prosecutor in the Madurai Bench to appear in bail and anticipatory bail applications that may soon follow suit. All this will ensure to the advantage of the actual perpetrators of the offence,” the HC notes.

The order further adds, “It is always open to the State Government to revisit the idea of entrusting the matter to the CBI, if it is satisfied that Mr. Anil Kumar, DSP is proceeding on the right lines.”

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