Stalin addressed Vignesh’s death in the Assembly after the principal opposition, AIADMK, moved a special call attention motion and other parties sought justice for the victim on April 26.

Vignesh against the backdrop of CCTV visuals
news Custodial Death Thursday, May 05, 2022 - 14:35

A major discrepancy has come to light in the case of the alleged custodial death of 25-year-old Vignesh, a Dalit man who offered horse rides on Chennai’s Marina Beach, and died on April 19. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, MK Stalin, who addressed the issue in the state Assembly on April 26, narrated most of the police’s version of the story with one major piece missing the injuries that had been recorded by police on Vignesh’s body — as per the complaint filed by the inspector of the station Vignesh and his friend and a construction worker, Suresh, were brought to — were not mentioned by the CM. This raises the question as to whether crucial details regarding Vignesh’s serious injuries were deliberately hidden from the Chief Minister, when the press release issued by the police on the day of Vignesh’s death says that both he and Suresh had injuries prior to them being taken into custody.

Stalin addressed Vignesh’s death in the Assembly after the principal opposition, AIADMK, moved a special call attention motion, and after Congress, the Left, VCK, and other parties sought justice for the victim on the floor of the house on April 26. Responding to the call attention motion, the Chief Minister assured the house that be it in government or in opposition, the DMK was firm on seeking a thorough probe and appropriate action against those responsible. 

The statement of Chief Minister MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu Assembly was on the lines of what the police had said in their press release that was issued on April 19. Narrating the sequence of events that led to the death of Vignesh in police custody, the Chief Minister said, “The police found ganja and liquor bottles in the autorickshaw in which Vignesh and Suresh were traveling on the night of April 18 during a vehicle check at Chennai’s Kellys junction.” He added that upon inquiry, the duo were giving conflicting replies and a search of the vehicle revealed that the duo were in possession of ganja and liquor bottles. “When police wanted to take them to the police station for further inquiries, Vignesh refused and tried to attack the police with a knife,” the CM said.

On April 19, the police had served breakfast to Suresh and Vignesh at the G-5 Secretariat Colony police station. After that, Vignesh allegedly developed complications that resulted in vomiting, and subsequently, had a seizure. He was rushed to a nearby private hospital and then taken to Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him ‘brought dead’, the Chief Minister said.

Police’s FIR records injuries

While the CM’s version in the Assembly does not mention the injuries police allegedly recorded on Vignesh’s body, the First Information Report registered by the Secretariat Colony police on April 19 in connection with the alleged custodial death of Vignesh under section 176 of the CrPC reveals a different picture. The FIR was registered based on the written complaint filed by G-5 Secretariat Colony Inspector of Police, Senthil Kumar. 

TNM has seen a copy of the FIR which reveals that after the police overpowered and nabbed them, at around 1:15 am, Vignesh gave a voluntary confession statement to the police. Based on this, at around 2:15 am, the police recovered a knife, a bottle of ‘Cooper’ brandy, and two 25 gm packets of ganja, in the presence of witnesses.

The FIR says both the accused were brought to the G-5 Secretariat Colony Police station at 6.20 am and an FIR was registered against them under section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 294(b) (obscene acts and songs), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 506(ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, and the investigation was taken up by Inspector Senthil Kumar.

When the condition of both accused was subjected to checks by inspector Senthil Kumar, the FIR says, “Vignesh had injury on his left arm, [it] was swollen; injury on his fist, injury on his right buttocks and his right arm was also swollen. Similarly, Suresh had an injury on his left leg and right shoulder.” 

The FIR also reads that upon orders, the inspector provided breakfast for both the accused at 8.20 am. At around 8.30 am Vighesh allegedly had seizures and vomited. He was rushed to a nearby private hospital and his pulse rate was low and then he was taken to KMCH hospital where he was declared ‘brought dead’.

Post-mortem report and witness testimonies

The FIR filed by Assistant Police Commissioner R Saravanan based on Senthil Kumar’s complaint raises more questions and highlights the procedural lapses in handling the case. Furthermore, it contradicts the information that was provided by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin to the Assembly, where he does not mention the grievous injuries — confirmed by the post-mortem report to have been inflicted on Vignesh before his death — that Senthil Kumar recorded in the FIR.

While the police’s version seems to indicate the injuries Vignesh had were acquired before he and Suresh were brought to the police station, the claim was refuted by Prabhu, who is an auto driver, and a key eyewitness in this case. Suresh and Vignesh were traveling in Prabhu’s auto on April 18 when they were stopped for routine vehicle check at Kelly’s signal. Notably, the CCTV visuals of Vignesh being picked up by the police show him running, and there is no indication that his leg had an injury at the time. 

The post-mortem report of Vignesh too reveals that multiple injuries were found on his body including a fracture in his right leg, injuries on his face, and abrasions on his body, including swelling and injuries on his limbs. According to human rights activists, “This is a clear case of custodial torture that has resulted in the death of Vignesh.”

Read: Vignesh custodial death case: Post-mortem reveals multiple wounds, fracture

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