While the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks in Tamil Nadu had got national and international attention and ignited a massive outrage against the police brutality and demanding appropriate actions against the police officers, the Tamil Nadu state government has seemingly been eyeing to stand away from admitting it as the custodial deaths and taking direct responsibility.
When family members of the victims, people, activists, opposition parties, national leaders, and celebrities stood and have been standing at the same line of enhancing the voice and importance for justice of the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks, Tamil Nadu minister painted a different definition for the 'lock-up' deaths which later caught up with controversy against the government.
While addressing the reporters in Thoothukudi on Sunday, Tamil Nadu Information and Broadcasting Minister Kadambur Raju said that the deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks cannot be called as custodial deaths as they didn't die in the police station. The minister went on to say that the 'lock-up death' means the arrested people attacked in the police station and dies there. In this case, the father and son duo was investigated at the station and lodged at the Kovilpatti sub-jail and the incident took place two days after their detention at the sub-jail.
He further maintained that the custodial violence was not the direct cause for their deaths. His statement had further fueled the outrage against the state government to take action and detain the responsible officers. However, the records from the prison and hospital had rebuffed the minister's claims and revealed that the father and son duo had suffered multiple injuries on their bodies and the reports close to the developments had divulged that they died of police brutality.
CM says deaths were due to breathlessness. Now, his Minister questions whether these are "lockup deaths"!— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) June 28, 2020
All deaths under custody of police or judiciary are custodial deaths.
Is the Minister saying there was no torture in lockup?
Condemning the statement from the minister, DMK leader and Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi took to Twitter and said that all deaths under the custody of police or judiciary are custodial deaths and she asked "Is the Minister saying there was no torture in lockup?".
She stated that "Our apprehension is that the CM and his Cabinet are now actively sabotaging the investigation by making these statements" and she added that "When the Magistrate is conducting an inquiry under the monitoring of High Court of Madras, will not such statements create unnecessary confusion?"
Similar to the state minister, the government's machinery and police department went contrary to the medical records. When the incident was reported, the Thoothukudi police superintendent said that the father and duo had died due to health issues while Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami said the deaths were due to breathlessness. However, the government has met with serious demands from people across the state urging to file an FIR against sub-inspectors Raghuganesh, Balakrishnan, and Inspector Sridhar with the connection to the custodial deaths of the father and son.
On Sunday, the Chief Minister said that the government has decided that CBI should probe the case and the government will seek permission from the Madras High court and transfer the case to the CBI. According to the latest reports, the state government has, on Monday, appealed to the Madras High Court Madurai bench, which took the case under the suo motu cognizance, to transfer the case to CBI for further investigation for what the government is yet to admit as the custodial deaths.