Police brutality is endemic, Madras High Court on custodial death of a father-son duo in Thoothukudi

Hearing a suo motu petition on the custodial death of a father-son duo in Thoothukudi, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed that police brutality has become endemic these days.

The court suggested psychological counselling for the police personnel so that they could “handle such situations calmly”.

Due to the stress caused by the Covid-19 crisis, the police seem to be overreacting to situations, the court said. 

Pointing out that Sathankulam, the native of the killed – is nearly 100 km away from Kovilpatti, the court told the Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate, who is conducting the inquiry into the incident, to work from the Sathankulam camp office for the time being.

The court suggested the magistrate to conduct spot inspection at places of occurrence, seize CCTV footage and case diary in the Sathankulam police station and visit family members of the deceased at their house to get their statements.

During the hearing, the judges also took cognisance of the injuries sustained by another inmate while at Kovilpatti sub-jail.

A division bench of Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi recorded the submissions of Additional Advocate General (AAG) K Chellapandian that the Director General of Police (DGP), pursuant to observations of the court in an earlier hearing, issued a circular on Thursday containing Standard Operating Procedures to be followed by all police personnel during lockdown. 

Chellapandian added that the DGP had spoken to the Chief Secretary on forming a high-level committee to frame further guidelines.

P Jayaraj (59) and his son J Benicks (31), were arrested on June 19 and lodged in Kovilpatti sub-jail for keeping their mobile phone shop in the Sathankulam main bazaar area open during curfew imposed during coronavirus lockdown.

Following the brutal police toture, Jayaraju and Benicks were admitted to the Kovilpatti government hospital on June 22. While the son died on the same night, the father breathed his last on June 23 morning.

According to reports, two Senior Inspectors have been suspended while departmental action is also being taken against two chief guards of the jail.

The death of the duo had sparked protests across parts of Tamil Nadu with many taking to the streets to demand justice.