Tuticorin custodial deaths

Sathankulam police torture: Father-son duo died of blunt injuries, CBI tells HC

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the Madras High Court that the father-son duo, Jayaraj (59) and Emmanuel Benicks (31), arrested by the Sathankulam police in June had died of blunt injuries inflicted on them.

The Federal had reported on June 24 that the police had inflicted sexual torture on them and eyewitnesses had reported that the victims were oozing blood from the rectum.

Related news: Sexual torture inflicted on father-son in TN police custody: Witnesses

The CBI told the court that they died due to the injuries during the ‘course of inquiry’ at the Sathankulam police station for allegedly violating curfew norms in late June.

The CBI opposed the bail pleas of Muthuraj, Murugan, Thomas Francis — three of the 10 accused persons arrested in connection with the custodial deaths — and told the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court that the investigation was underway and the accused should not be granted bail at this stage of the case.

Related podcast: Violence at home and school must end: TM Krishna on custodial deaths

The CBI said it had examined 35 witnesses, including two police officers, so far.

The counsel who had appeared for the three accused claimed that they had no direct role in the custodial torture inflicted on the duo and they were just doing their office work at the time of the incident.

However, the CBI told the court that the witnesses had confirmed the role of the three persons and so, they could not be granted bail.

Related video: Too late, crucial evidence may go missing now: Sathankulam victims’ lawyer

Also, the autopsy report had revealed that Jayaraj had sustained 17 injuries, while his son Benicks had sustained 13 injuries. However, it was not clear whether the duo had sustained any internal injuries as the detailed autopsy report is yet to come.

As Judge V Bharathidasan was of the opinion that a bail could not be granted to the trio at this juncture, all the three defendants withdrew their pleas.

It is learnt that former Sathankulam inspector Sridhar’s bail petition was rejected early this month.

Meanwhile, sources privy to the investigation told The Federal that the investigation was stopped for a while, as the CBI officer probing the case had tested positive for COVID-19.

Related news: Custodial torture: Police not only break the law, but also limbs of detainees

“Almost all the digital evidence and other pieces of evidence have been collected from the Sathankulam station and hospital, and Kovilpatti prison. Besides the 35 witnesses, there are over 20 others who are yet to be examined,” said a source.

On June 23, the father-son duo died at Kovpatti hospital after suffering from a brief illness at the prison. After a huge public outrage, two separate cases (deaths of Jayaraj and Fenix) were registered under various charges including IPC Section 302 (murder). It was transferred to the CB-CID and later to the CBI for further investigation.

During the course of the investigation, CB-CID police had arrested 10 people, including station inspector Srithar, sub-inspector Balakrishnan and Ragu Ganesh, who were the prime accused in the case.

Of the 10 accused, Paul Durai, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in early August after being hospitalised for a short period.

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