The Madras High Court on Tuesday expressed the view that in case of custodial deaths of Tamil Nadu that the ante-mortem injuries found on the bodies of Jayaraj and Bennix, coupled with the averments in the report of the Judicial Magistrate No.1, Kovilpatti and statement of Revathy, Head Constable, Sathankulam Police Station, who spilled the beans on the delinquent police personnel “would be prima facie enough to alter the case to one under Section 302 IPC against the Sathankulam policemen who were actively involved in the investigation of the case.
Bench comprising Justices P N Prakash and B Pugalendhi on custodial deaths observed that,
“The Sathankulam police are taking advantage of the fact that the investigation of the case is in limbo and are attempting to cause disappearance of evidence”.
The Court observed that the Sathankulam police was trying to destroy the evidence related to custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix, and ordered the Deputy Superintendent of Police, CB-CID, Tamil Nadu Police to take charge of the probe.
The court deemed it to be in the interests of justice to have the statement of Revathy, Head Constable, recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C. by a Judicial Magistrate, other than the Judicial Magistrate No.1, Kovilpatti and Judicial Magistrate, Sathankualm. Meanwhile, the District Collector, Tuticorin, is directed to immediately ensure the safety of Revathy and her family members- “She may even be granted leave from duty as we fear that there will be attempt to intimidate her and make her resile from her version given to the Judicial Magistrate No.I, Kovilpatti”.
The Court observed that in a case of physical violence in custodial deaths , alacrity in investigation is the need of the hour. “We are aware of the legal position that in the name of monitoring the case, we have no authority to direct the manner in which the investigation should be carried on. However, on account of the stalemate that has occasioned in the investigation due to the request made by the State Government for C.B.I. investigation, we are constrained to step in and fill up the vacuum in order to ensure that precious evidence does not get dissipated”, observed the bench.
The court stated that all this will enure to the advantage of the actual perpetrators of the offence.
In parting, the Court also observed in case of custodial deaths :
“One may wonder as to why it took this long for this Court to make the above observations. Public indignation cannot be the barometer for judicial orders. Public memory is short, but, judicial orders, especially those of the High Court, which is a Court of record, live for ever. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor committed the blunder of condemning Jesus Christ to death based on public outcry in a sham trial that was held before dawn and thereafter, washed his hands off with water. We cannot afford to emulate him. Hitherto, in the absence of credible materials, we were handicapped and now that, we have at hand some prima facie incriminatory materials, we decided to fill the gap via our above observations”.
The HC, Madurai Bench on Monday initiated suo moto contempt proceedings against three police officers for obstructing the HC-ordered inquiry by Judicial Magistrate into the horrific custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix in Sathankulam town in Tamil Nadu.
Read the order here: