Alleged Custodial Death in Sathankulam, Thookudi

In Thoothukudi District Sathankulam Taluk, near Old Bus stand, Jeyaraj (58) was a timber trader and his son at J Fenix (31) owned a mobile phone shop near the bus stand. On 19.06.2020, the Police who were on patrol duty, had entered the shop, asking them to close as it was still open post the 8 pm deadline because of the pandemic lockdown measures. However, the duo picked up quarrel with the police. Hence they were booked by the police for violating curfew and for keeping their shop open till late in the evening on June 19. They were also booked under Sections 188, 269, 294(b), 353 and 506(2) of IPC. for picking up a quarrel with the police and assaulting the police.

On 20.06.2020, they were remanded and after a medical check-up they were lodged in Kovilpatti sub-jail as per the current protocol governing isolation for the suspects before being shifted to Palayamkottai central prison.

On 22.06.2020, by evening J Fenix complained of chest pain and a doctor from Kovilpatti Government Hospital attended and he was thereafter was admitted in Kovilpatti Government Hospital. He died there shortly. His father, Jeyaraj, close to 10.30pm, Jayaraj had fever and was taken to the same hospital where he succumbed to respiratory illness on 23.06.2020 morning. 

A First Information Report has been filed in Kovilpatti for further investigation. Kovilpatti Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Kalaikathiravan said, “The inquest will be done by the Kovilpatti Magistrate. A team of doctors are conducting their postmortem."

According to Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan said the son, who had heart ailments, developed breathing problems in the jail and got admitted to the Kovilpatti Government Hospital, where he died. “His father (Jayaraj) was running high fever when he was arrested and was admitted to the isolation ward of Kovilpatti Government Hospital for monitoring. He died around 5 am on Tuesday. Since they were under judicial remand, an autopsy will be done under the monitoring of Judicial Magistrate and a further course of action will be taken based on the post-mortem report”, Mr Arun Balagopalan said.

Tuticorin district collector Sandeep Nanduri said the two sub inspectors against whom the protesters made strong allegations were placed under suspension. “The entire team in the Sathankulam police station, including the inspector and those in other ranks, have been transferred.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered that the post-mortem examinations of the deceased be videographed, adding, that the autopsy has to be conducted in the presence of a three-member medical team. A petition was filed in this regard by Selvarani, wife of the deceased Jeyaraj, before Hon’ble Justice B Pugalendhi.

They had been arrested by Sathankulam police on June 20 following a disagreement between both parties.. Sources alleged that the policemen misbehaved with the duo, which also led to a scuffle. Initially, Jeyaraj was picked up by the police and after he did not return home, his son Bennix approached the Sathankulam station, where he was also detained. After being arrested on charges under Sections 353 and 506 (ii) of the IPC, they were remanded in judicial custody on June 20 and lodged in the Kovilpatti sub-jail thereafter. Sources alleged that the father and son were severely physically assaulted at the police station, owing to which they died. 

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