Eight suspects, including a woman, who were arrested in connection with the abduction of two UK nationals for ransom, were detained under the National Security (NSA) Act on Thursday.

The detention orders signed by Chennai police commissioner S. George were served on the suspects lodged in Puzhal central prison. Hours later, their bail plea was rejected by a city court, police sources said.

The suspects were held on charges of kidnapping Thavaraja and his wife Salaja. On May 29, the UK nationals were kidnapped by a gang when they arrived here from Colombo on a holiday. A suspect holding a placard with the name of Thavaraja posed as a hotel representative, took the couple to a vehicle and held them for ransom.

The suspects contacted the couple’s daughter Darshini in London and demanded Rs. 2.48 crore to be paid in British Pounds. In a swift operation launched in coordination with the London metropolitan police, a special team of the Chennai police rescued the couple and arrested the suspects from a village near Neyveli.

Justifying their detention under NSA, a senior police officer said the sensational case had the potential to affect relations between the two countries. If the case had not been detected and solved within days, foreign nationals travelling to India, particularly Tamil Nadu, might have lost faith in the security system here, he said.

The plan for the kidnap was hatched in the UK and Ajanthan, working in a petrol bunk owned by the couple, had scanned their photos, itinerary, travel documents and sent the copies to his associates in Tamil Nadu to facilitate the kidnap. “While demanding that the ransom be paid to a man in London, the suspects threatened Darshini that they would murder her parents and throw their bodies in the forest,” he said.

NSA detentions on the rise

The number of detentions under NSA has reached a record high in Tamil Nadu in recent years. Police sources said 51 persons were detained under the Act this year as on July 20. But, the total number of suspects held under NSA in the three years between 2010 and 12 was only 35, of which many were released by the advisory board (which is the appellate authority), the sources said.

Last year, Thamim Ansari, who was arrested by the ‘Q’ Branch CID on charges of taking videos of vital defence establishments in the country at the behest of a Pakistani diplomat based in Sri Lanka, was detained under the NSA. However, the Madras High Court bench quashed the detention weeks later. The number of detentions went up this year owing to the violence allegedly unleashed by Pattali Makkal Katchi cadres following the arrest of their leader S. Ramadoss and his son Anbumani Ramadoss.

Reacting to the detention of the suspects under NSA, PUCL national general secretary V. Suresh accused the police of abusing the preventive detention orders in Tamil Nadu. “This is a mockery of the criminal justice system. Preventive detention laws are being used as a tool to prevent bail and keep the suspects in jail. The actual purpose of the Act is entirely different; it is to be used when there is a record of a person having major criminal antecedents. The fact that the High Court has set aside about 80 per cent of such detentions in the last two years only supports the view that the law is being abused,” Dr. Suresh said.

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