PIL FILED IN SUPREME COURT IN THE TAMIL NADU-CUSTODIAL DEATH CASE

Recently, a Public Interest Litigation (#PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court on or around 03-07-2020 seeking a direction that the #TamilNadu #ChiefMinister does not hold the portfolio of #HomeMinistry till the completion of the investigation and trial in the alleged father-son #custodialdeath in Tamil Nadu.

In the said matter, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had passed an Order dated 24-06-2020 by taking #suomotocognizance in the matter of The Registrar (Judicial), Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court vs The State of Tamil Nadu and 5 others W.P. (MD) No.7042 of 2020, pertaining to the alleged custodial death of Late Tr. #Bennicks and Late Tr. #Jeyaraj in #Sathankulam, Tamil Nadu.

A suo moto cognizance is generally exercised by a high court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India 1950. In a number of other instances, the courts have evoked their judicial conscience based on newspaper and media reports and have taken suo moto cognizance of cases, to ensure speedy justice and preservation of human rights.

In this case, Late Tr. Bennicks and Late Tr. Jeyaraj were arrested by Sathankulam Police Station Officers on 19-06-2020, based on a complaint which stated that the Deceased Prisoners had refused to shut their mobile shop after the permitted time and further, threatened, abused and prevented the police officers from discharging their official duties during the Covid-19 period. Thereafter, they were shifted to Sub-Jail on 20-06-2020. But on 22-06-2020, both the #RemandPrisoners were admitted to Government Hospital, Kovilpatti, where they passed away.

Based on the complaint of Jail Superintendent, two #FIRs were registered in Kovilpatti Police Station on 23-06-2020 with regard to the death of the Deceased Prisoners. Further, the family members of the Deceased Prisoners also filed a Petition in the Madras High Court on 23-06-2020, against the alleged #policebrutality of Sathankulam Police Officers, which led to the death of the Deceased Prisoners.

The Madras High Court in the suo moto case passed an Order dated 26-06-2020 and directed the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti to visit Sathankulam to conduct inquiry and local investigation, as the family members of the Deceased Prisoners were not in a mental and physical condition to travel to Kovilpatti, which is 100 kms away from Sathankulam.

It has been further noted in the Order dated 29-06-2020, that the State Government of Tamil Nadu had planned to transfer the case to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Further, as the Sathankulam police officials were not cooperating with the inquiry of the Judicial Magistrate, the Madras High Court directed the District Collector to depute Revenue Officers in Sathankulam, to assist the Magistrate in his inquiry.

Thereafter, the report of the Magistrate was filed in the Madras High Court, which stated that a few police officers at Sathankulam Police Station had tried to cause disappearance of the evidence in this case, which is based on the statement of Ms. Revathy, Head Constable, Sathankulam Police Station. Thus, the Madras High Court appointed a CB-CID Officer to investigate this case, until the case is handed over to CBI, vide Order dated 30-06-2020. This would ensure that no evidence is tampered until the investigation is complete.  

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Shri. Edappadi K Palaniswamy, reportedly issued a public statement on 24-06-2020, stating that the Deceased Prisoners had succumbed to certain illness and not due to police atrocities. As a consequence, the PIL was filed in the Apex Court praying that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is retrained from holding the portfolio of Home Ministry till the completion of the investigation and trial. This is to ensure a free and fair probe and trial in this case.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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