Police killings: TN Govt must end impunity for police officers, demands Amnesty

“The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks once again signal towards India’s continuing failure to hold its police accountable,” reacting to the custodial death of a father-son duo in Tamil Nadu, Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India said on Saturday.

“The poor conviction rates in cases of custodial torture and deaths have further created a climate of pervasive impunity, emboldening the police officers. This must end now. According to the 2018 National Crimes Record Bureau data, Tamil Nadu accounted for the second highest deaths in custody. But not a single police personnel was arrested” Amnesty’s statement reads.

59-year-old P Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son J Bennicks were picked up for questioning by the Thoothukudi police in Tamil Nadu for keeping their shop open during the lockdown imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were allegedly tortured by the police while in custody, leading to their deaths.

While Bennicks fell ill and died on 22 June, his father died on the morning of 23 June.

“The Tamil Nadu State government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the torture meted out by its police officers. It must show firm resolve by punishing the police officers involved and ensuring that Jayaraj and Bennick’s families get justice. Despite torture and other forms of ill-treatment being outlawed in international law for over three decades, they are still not recognized as distinct crimes under Indian law. However, courts have ruled that torture violates constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and personal liberty, and that the state has an obligation to prevent it”, said Avinash Kumar.