Tamil Nadu

Sattankulam: plea in SC seeks stripping of Home from CM

A view of the CB-CID station in Thoothukudi.

A view of the CB-CID station in Thoothukudi.   | Photo Credit: N. Rajesh

A lawyer moved the Supreme Court on Friday seeking a direction to relieve Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami of the Home portfolio till the completion of the investigation and trial in the alleged custodial torture and murder of a father and son in Sattankulam.

Petitioner A. Rajarajan accused the Chief Minister of “screening and safeguarding” the accused police officers.

The plea alleged that the Chief Minister issued a public statement on June 24, approximately six days before the investigation started, claiming that trader Jayaraj and his son Benicks died of “illness”.

Mr. Rajarajan said Mr. Palaniswami should be charged with screening with the accused using the influence of his office.

“The statement on June 24 was highly improper, condemnable and contrary to law, because the investigation procedure starting from 154 Cr.P.C and culminating in 173 Cr.P.C. had not even started until June 30. A magisterial enquiry to determine the cause of the death was at a preliminary stage”, the plea said.

Data | Five States including Tamil Nadu recorded over 100 custodial deaths but zero police convictions between 2001-18

The public statement was made to avoid any adverse remarks being made about his government, it stated.

“He had prima facie acted contrary to law and in derogation to the constitutional post he holds, indulged in saving the persons accused of custodial torture which resulted in a twin deaths” the petition alleged.

Job, compensation offers

It reasoned that Mr. Palaniswami had administrative and executive control over the CB-CID officer probing the case. Fair and free investigation was not possible under his administrative control. Besides, the victims' family members had received offers of jobs and compensation. This would “psychologically restrain” them to cooperate in the probe and trial.

The family members had registered a complaint on June 23 that the victims were subjected to severe physical torture at the hands of the police officers at the Sattankulam police station. The Madras High Court had also taken suo motu cognisance of the incident.

Explaining why he has filed a writ petition, Mr. Rajarajan said that “free and fair investigation is an implicit fundamental rights guaranteed. The victims’ family is in great distress. They have lost two members. It cannot be expected of them to approach this court or the High Court for the prayers sought in the present writ petition”.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 8:16:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/plea-in-sc-on-tn-custodial-deaths/article31980094.ece

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