The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday initiated suo motu proceedings in connection with the custodial deaths of two traders — P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks — at Sattankulam in Thoothukudi district.
Stating that it would monitor the case, the court urged the public to remain calm. A Division Bench of Justices P.N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi directed Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan to file a status report on the case on June 26.
The court observed that the incident had caused anguish and discontent among the public, and underscored the need for having a standard operating procedure in place for the police to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
The people were already facing hardship due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the judges noted.
The death of the father-son duo due to alleged torture in police custody drew widespread condemnation from human rights activists, political leaders and the public at large on Tuesday.
Two SIs suspended
During the course of Wednesday’s hearing, Inspector General of Police (South Zone) K.P. Shanmuga Rajeswaran submitted that two sub-inspectors of the Sattankulam police station — Balakrishnan and Raghuganesan — had been suspended. Besides, Inspector Sridhar had been removed from the station and placed under a “waiting list”, while a departmental inquiry had been initiated against head constables Muthuraj and Murugan, he added.
When asked about the present situation in Sattankulam, the Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan submitted that the place was calm and people had faith in police action following the steps initiated. He further submitted that the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti was conducting an inquest into the incident.
The judges directed Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian to give instructions to the authorities concerned and ensure that physical distancing was followed during the funeral of the father and son duo. The norms cannot be relaxed as the spread of COVID-19 was rampant, the court observed.
The court adjourned the case till Friday for further hearing.