The Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the alleged custodial death of a farmer at Chittar in Pathanamthitta district. PP Mathai, a 41-year-old farmer, was found dead in a well while in the custody of Forest Department officials on July 28.
The High Court made the order while considering the plea filed by Mathai’s family on Friday. As per reports, the Kerala government had also given a recommendation to the Centre to start a CBI probe in the case. After the court order, the state government said that it welcomes the CBI probe.
According to Mathai’s family, he was taken into custody by a few officials of Chittar Forest Division, accusing him of destroying a CCTV camera installed by the department. A few hours after nabbing him from his house, the family was informed that Mathai died after falling into a well at his farmhouse, which is near the spot where the damaged CCTV camera was fixed. It is alleged that he was taken to the farmhouse, allegedly to collect evidence, without taking him to forest department station or registering an FIR (first information report).
Mathai’s post-mortem report had stated that he had no assault injuries in his body. However, his arms were broken and there were abrasions on his left arm, which the police said, he would have sustained during the fall.
The High Court, while directing a CBI probe, also directed Mathai’s family to make arrangements for his funeral. His family has been preserving Mathai’s mortal remains in the mortuary, stating that the funeral will only be conducted after the officials of the Forest Department are arrested. The family alleged that the officials of Chittar forest range have a hand in Mathai’s death.
The Kerala government had in August suspended two officials in connection with the case. R Rajesh Kumar, Deputy Range Forest Officer and AK Pradeep Kumar, Section Forest Officer, were suspended as part of the inquiry. The Forest Department had earlier transferred seven officials before the suspension of two officers.
A family friend of Mathai, Abraham, had earlier told TNM that the residents in the region had seen the forest officials at the spot where Mathai was found dead. The officials had called out to a local passerby, saying that a man had fallen into the well. Abraham had also alleged that forest officials had fled after people started gathering at the spot.