A plea has been filed on Friday (July 3) in the Supreme Court seeking to restrain Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami from holding the home ministry portfolio till completion of probe and the trial in the Sathankulum custodial deaths case of P Jayaraj and J Bennicks recently.
Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennicks were picked up by police at Tuticorin for questioning for keeping their mobile accessories shop open during the lockdown on June 19 and both succumbed to injuries allegedly received during their custody.
The PIL, filed by lawyer A Rajarajan, alleged that the Chief Minister made a public statement on June 24 saying that the victims died of illness.
“Issue a writ or direction directing the first Respondent (the CM) to restrain from holding portfolio of Ministry of Home pending investigation and completion of trial… and further direct the 4th respondent (Deputy Superintendent of police, CBCID, Thirunelveli) to investigate the role of 1st respondent (the CM) in screening and safeguarding the accused persons in crime no by misusing his official capacity,” the PIL said.
Referring to the statements of victims family members, the plea said the deceased persons were subjected to severe physical torture by the cops of Sathankulam police station before being remanded in the criminal case and the cause of death was custodial torture.
On June 24, the first respondent who is the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and who holds the portfolio of ministry of home affairs gave a public statement in the press meet that the deceased persons died due to illness and thereby ruled out foul play in the death of above said deceased persons.
That free and fair investigation is not at all possible under administrative leadership of the first respondent who is heading the home department and further the role of first respondent in screening and safeguarding the persons accused of section 302 (murder) of the IPC by using his official capacity have to be investigated, it said.
Initially, an FIR was lodged in the case under CrPC to determine the cause of death of the father-son duo.
Later, the family alleged foul play and lodged a complaint on June 23 before a senior police officer.
The issue of alleged custodial torture, leading to deaths, evoked public anger and the Madras High Court took suo motu (on its own) congnizance of it and passed slew of directions pertaining to the ongoing probe in the case.
The PIL termed as highly improper the statement of the Chief Minister saying that the victims died of illness.
The Deputy Superintendent of Police of CBCID took up the probe on July 1 in pursuance of the High Court’s directions and has prima facie found that some policemen tortured the victims.
Now the provision of murder has been added in the FIR and some officials, including the erstwhile Inspector and Sub-Inspector of the said police station have been arrested.