TN Custodial Deaths: Father-Son Duo Assaulted All Night at Police Station, Reveals Judicial Probe

Poornima Murali

The Judicial Magistrate probing the Jayaraj-Bennix custodial killings in Tamil Nadu, in his four-page report, has said there is evidence of assault on the father-son duo.

The magistrate has said that according to eyewitnesses, both the father and the son were assaulted by police officers through the night of June 19, resulting in blood marks on canes and the table on which the victims were laid and beaten.

P Jayaraj, 60, and J Bennix, 31, were arrested by the Thoothukudi police on June 19 for keeping their mobile store open after permitted hours. Relatives claim that Jayaraj, who was in the store, was picked up by police and verbally abused and assaulted. His son, Bennix​, had later gone to the police station to plead with the police to release his father.

The duo was allegedly thrashed and a case was filed against them under IPC Sections 188, 383 and 506(II). They were later taken to the Kovilpatti sub-jail. Both died at a hospital in Kovilpatti on June 23 hours apart, with relatives alleging they were severely thrashed at Sathankulam police station.

In his report, the Magistrate said, "Evidence could be erased, need to be protected immediately."

"When asked to hand over the canes (lathis), police officers at Satankulam station acted as though they did not hear my command. When I asserted, they reluctantly handed over the lathis," the Magistrate wrote in the report. He added that police constable Maharajah uttered an expletive behind his back and said, 'I won't be able to do anything'. All this "harassment" was videographed by the police officer there, as per his report.

The court documents will be handed over to CB-CID investigating officer, the Tirunelveli Deputy Superintendent of Police, as a stopgap measure until the CBI takes over the investigation into the case.

The report added that CCTV footage at the police station has been erased as the settings automatically deleted the footage after 24 hours.

The Madras High Court on Tuesday said there is enough evidence of assault on the bodies of Jayaraj and Bennix, adding that prima facie evidence can lead to registration of murder case against the police officers.

The incident has triggered a furore in the state, leading to the suspension of four policemen, including two sub-inspectors.

The High Court had taken up the case and ordered a video recording of the post-mortem after the relatives of the two men moved the court.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had announced Rs 10 lakh each to the family of the deceased and a government job to one person from the family, based on their qualification.