Tamil Nadu

High-level panel to decide on standard operating procedure, High Court informed

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday was informed by the State government that a high-level committee, comprising the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Law Secretary, would convene a meeting with regard to the implementation of a standard operating procedure to be followed by police personnel, in view of the custodial deaths of two traders P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks in Sattankulam in Thoothukudi district.

During the course of the hearing of the suo motu proceedings initiated by the court, a Division Bench of Justices P.N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi were informed that the Director General of Police had met the Chief Secretary in this regard and a circular was also issued recently. Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian submitted that a comprehensive direction would be issued soon.

The State submitted that the post-mortem had been conducted and the report would be submitted to the court in the coming week. Due to the lockdown imposed in Madurai, the report could not be sent to the court. Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan submitted a status report and said that the situation had returned to normal in Sattankulam, and there were no untoward incidents.

Taking into account the submissions, the judges observed that the COVID-19 pandemic had brought hardship to everyone. People were depressed and counselling was required. Even the police were functioning under stress. Counselling for police personnel and their families could alleviate stress, they said and suggested that yoga as an option to be explored.

After it was said that judicial officers and court staff in Sattankulam were facing threat, the court directed the Thoothukudi SP to ensure that adequate protection was provided. It was said that a clerk was assaulted. The SP informed the court that police personnel were already deployed and adequate security was provided. The situation would be closely monitored and the accused would be apprehended, the SP assured.

The court reiterated that it was closely monitoring the case and the principal district and sessions judge of Thoothukudi was also briefing the judges on the progress. Initially, there was resentment in receiving the bodies, but after persuasion by the judicial magistrate, Kovilpatti, who is conducting the inquest, the bodies were received and last rites performed.

The judges suggested that the judicial magistrate could visit the family members and conduct the inquest. The JM can visit the police station, the sub-jail in Kovilpatti and the place of the occurrence of the incident and collect details, reports and also take photographs.

The district administration must see to it that adequate facilities are provided, the court said.

The CCTV footages, medical records/reports shall be collected for the purpose and till further orders, the case shall be dealt with by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kovilpatti. Taking note of the fact that an accused in another case, S. Raja Singh was found in the Sub-jail with multiple injuries, the court directed the Chief Judicial Magistrate to conduct an inquiry and file a report.

Following widespread criticism of the incident and backlash on social media, the judges urged the people to remain calm and not to ignite passions. The family members of the traders have expressed their faith in the judiciary and the others must also follow the same. “We have given the JM a free hand to conduct the inquest,” the judges said. The case was adjourned till June 30.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 8:58:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/high-level-panel-to-decide-on-standard-operating-procedure-high-court-informed/article31928438.ece

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