The Rajan case that Jai Bhim refers to in passing

The movie Jai Bhim makes a passing reference to the case of Rajan, an engineering student who went missing after being arrested by the Kerala Police. His father TV Eachara began a search for him that ended without any closure. Illustration: Manikandan R

In 1993, a heavily pregnant Parvathi, holding her young girl child by one hand, started a desperate search for her husband Rajakannu who went missing from police custody in Tamil Nadu. The search that spanned Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring state of Kerala found the Madras High Court in between.

TJ Gnanavel’s movie Jai Bhim has now told us all how Parvathi’s (presented as Sengani and played by Lijomol Jose) search ended in finding not Rajakannu but his body dumped by the roadside to make a custodial killing pass off as a road accident. The film explores and explains how high court lawyer K Chandru (played by Suriya) could help Parvathi find her husband – now dead.

Parvathi may have never found even her husband’s body had it not been for the struggle waged by a father to find his missing son in 1976. To get to the truth of what happened to Rajakannu, Chandru asks the Madras High Court to allow him to question witnesses but witness examination wasn’t allowed under Habeas Corpus.

For the uninitiated, Habeas Corpus is a legal recourse that allows a person to report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful. To tide over this legal tangle, Chandru quotes the Rajan case, a Habeas Corpus case where the Kerala High Court allowed witness examination. This proves to be the turning point in Parvathi’s case as questioning of witnesses allows the brutal truth about what happened to Rajakannu to reveal itself.

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