Sathankulam custodial deaths: New SP, new order, and new evidence! Is TN govt under pressure?

The custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi district have been attaining major and shocking developments that deepen the voice and outrage of demanding justice and add more pressure to the state government. 

On Monday, the CCTV visuals that emerged from the shop near Bennicks's mobile shop in Sathankulam revealed what has happened on June 19 and it exposed that the police have completely lied in the FIR. The visuals have become one of the crucial pieces of evidence in the case which turned out as strong resentments against the police on concealing the facts. The evidence had added more pressure to the government following which it has passed some orders.

On Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu government has transferred sitting Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police (SP) Arun Balagopalan in the wake of the custodial deaths. According to the government, the expelled SP has been kept under the waiting list and he has been replaced by S Jeyakumar who has been serving as the SP of Villupuram district. The action of transferring the SP has come about a week after the death of Jayaraj and Bennicks who died under police custody.

Arun Balagopalan has come under strong criticism as he has been accused of not taking action against the responsible police officers. After the fierce outrage from the public, the SP had suspended the inspector and sub-inspectors of the Sathankulam police station. While the government appointed new SP to the district, the Madras High Court Madurai bench has issued a new order to expedite the investigation.

Must read: Sathankulam custodial deaths: New CCTV visuals contradict police claims! What's in it?

According to the reports, the Madras High Court Madurai bench has, on Tuesday, directed Tirunelveli CBCID Deputy Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar to take over the probe into the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks, until the CBI starts the probe. The court has said that the case has now been handed over to the CBCID as there is a possibility that the evidence connected to the case could be tampered and disappeared in the duration till the CBI comes into the picture of investigating the deaths.

On Monday, the Tamil Nadu government has transferred the case to the CBI to have a fair and independent investigation. Exactly a day after, the court has now issued fresh order to rope in the CBCID until the CBI takes over the case. The court said that people should not lose confidence. The Madurai bench of the High Court has earlier taken the case under suo motu cognizance and began hearing into the custodial deaths. 

Following CCTV visuals, the case has seen new evidence on Tuesday in which it was divulged that the father and son duo were brutally thrashed by the policemen in the station. On Tuesday, Judicial Magistrate Bharathidhasan has disclosed his investigation report to the Madras High Court bench. Bharathidhasan has carried out the investigation at the Sathankulam police station with the police officers. In his report, the judicial magistrate said that the Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) and the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) weren't co-operative to the investigation.

In his report, Bharathidhasan said that bloodstains were found in lathis and on the table at the Sathankulam police station and stated that a woman police officer attached to the station was under deep fear while she was filing her confessions on what has happened. While the investigation, police officer Maharajan used derogatory words and refused to hand over his lathi, and the police officers observed the conduct of threatening the woman police officer from giving the confessions. The magistrate said that the woman police officer was assured that she would be provided with adequate security.

The magistrate further stated that the eye witness had confessed that the police officers had brutally beaten the father and son duo throughout the night and they reportedly tried to tamper and destroy the evidence and they have destroyed the CCTV visuals and he added that Maharajan had used obscene language against him while the investigation and their non-cooperation has led to having an incomplete investigation. According to the reports, the judicial magistrate has disclosed his findings to the registry of the High court which had become another set of evidence against the police, following the CCTV visuals that released on Monday.

The back to back evidence had gone contrary to what the police had claimed and mentioned in the FIR. On June 19, the policemen arrested Jayaraj and Bennicks for keeping the shop open beyond the prescribed lockdown timings. The son and the father had breathed their last on June 22 and 23 respectively under the police custody, which sparked massive outrage across the state and nation to demand justice for the victims and strong action against the responsible police officers.

Must read: As CBI to probe Sathankulam custodial deaths, what's the state of some of the important cases?