The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been granted three-day custody of five police officers arrested in the custodial death case of father-son duo Jayaraj and Bennix in Sathankulam in Tamil Nadu.
The CBI had initially filed an application with the Madurai Chief Judicial Magistrate seeking custody for five days to investigate the five main accused - Inspector Sridhar, sub-inspectors Balakrishnan and Raghuganesh, head constable Muthuraj and constable S Murugan. However, as per the permission now granted by the court for three days, the CBI will have custody of all five presently lodged at Madurai Central Jail until 5.30 pm on July 16.
Before the case was handed over to CBI by the state government, the Madras High Court had ordered an inquiry by the Crime Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID). The CB-CID had also arrested five more police personnel for abetting the offence. Special Sub-Inspector Paldurai, head constable Samadurai and constables Veyilmuthu, Chelladurai and Thomas were among the others held in connection to the case.
58-year-old Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennix were taken into custody by the Sathankulam police on June 19 for allegedly not following lockdown rules. CCTV footage that was later recovered from outside Jayaraj and Bennix’s shops have proved that the First Information Report (FIR) filed by Sathankulam police was false.
On June 20, Jayaraj and Bennix were transferred to Kovilpatti sub jail where they succumbed on June 22 and June 23 respectively, to grievous injuries that they sustained while in custody. The custodial deaths caused protests in Thoothukudi district with the public rallying in support of the deceased. Madras High Court took suo-motu cognisance of the case and ordered a CB-CID probe.
The statement recorded by a constable who was eye-witness to the torture and the report submitted by a Magistrate after his visit to the Sathankulam police station were important turning points in this case.
Two days ago, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the death of Jayaraj and Bennix will have to be fully investigated. Human Rights Watch South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly too, has called for police reform and accountability.