P Jayaraj and his son Fenix, arrested for violating lockdown norms over business hours of their shop, died at a hospital in Kovilpatti, with the relatives alleging that they were severely thrashed at a police station by Tamil Nadu Police personnel. The Tuticorin custodial deaths have sparked nationwide outrage with #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix trending on social media.
Thousands of people in Sathakulam, a place in the Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, took to the streets to pay their respects for Jayaraj and Fenix, the father-son duo who were brutally tortured and killed while in police custody.
From May 19, many in the district have been demanding justice for Jayaraj and Fenix. As the father-son duo’s coffins were carried from their residence, many people gathered to say their goodbyes.
Jayaraj and Fenix were one amongst the general public, ordinary middle-class individuals who were tortured and allegedly killed in police custody for one violation – keeping their mobile store open beyond the permitted time during the coronavirus lockdown.
Jayaraj (59) and his son Fenix Emmanuel (31) ran a mobile shop in Tuticorin. On June 19, around 8:15 pm Jayaraj was pulled up by the Sathankulam police officials who were on patrol. They upbraided him for exceeding the curfew by 15 minutes. On Saturday, Jayaraj was taken in by the police and soon after his son Fenix was arrested too when he went to enquire about his father’s arrest.
The two of them were booked under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (use of force to deter public servant from duty) 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), and 506(2) (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
In custody, they were allegedly tortured. They were later released and taken to a hospital where a doctor declared them fit despite eyewitnesses reporting that they beaten up and still bleeding.
The Sathankulam police then approached magistrate B Saravanan for the remand of Jayaraj and Fenix. The magistrate allegedly gave the remand order without physically seeing the father-son duo, which is required to ascertain if detainees are injured.
LAWYER DETAILS HORROR OF POLICE TORTURE
Fenix’s lawyer who was there in the station when the police officials hit the father-son duo had a horrifying tale to share.
Advocate S Manimaran, an eyewitness to the brutality said, “We were standing out and we were seeing the whole incident from outside through a glass gate. Fenix and his father were beaten. In the morning there was blood all over the place where they were sitting.”
He added that Fenix was beaten so brutally, his flesh was ripped off.
He said, “I gave them four clothes to change. We had laid down a blanket in the seat of the car when we went to pick them up, Fenix had lost a lot of flesh on his back. He was a well-built man. The car driver was in tears seeing their state. The spot where Fenix sat was covered with blood, the place where Jayaraj was sitting was also all blood. The blankets are still with us. They were beaten to death.”
Other eyewitnesses have also claimed that Jayaraj and Fenix were bleeding from their rectum and were allegedly sodomised while in prison.
Jayaraj and his son were later produced before the magistrate and the duo was sent to Kovilpatti sub-jail. That evening, both the father and son were taken to the Kovilpatti government hospital. Fenix died on Monday evening and the following morning Jayaraj succumbed to respiratory illness.
PROTESTS BREAK OUT OVER CUSTODIAL DEATHS
Ever since the news of the deaths first broke, the district of Tuticorin has seen widespread turmoil and protests have broken out in several parts of Tamil Nadu. Across the state several trader union bodies, political outfits, activists, have staged protests against the death of the duo. In Tuticorin, traders downed shutters, protests were held throughout the week.
Celebrities, too, have taken to social media demanding that action be taken against those involved in the death of the duo.
Jayaraj’s wife Selvarani has lodged a complaint and has alleged police brutality as the cause of death of her husband and son.
Famous Tamil radio jockey RJ Suchitra, who made a video on the brutalities endured by the father-son duo also claimed that they were beaten so badly their knee caps were broken and that they were sexually abused and left bleeding in the jail. Her video went viral and has now led to momentum on social media with #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix trending on Twitter.
On social media, many have been drawing a parallel between the death of the duo with the death of African-American George Floyd in the US and are demanding justice. People have been demanding that murder charges be filed against those involved in the tragic death of the two people.
DISCREPANCIES IN FIR POINT TO COVER-UP
There have been multiple discrepancies from the official side in the shocking case, beginning from the FIR which was filed against the father son-duo. While the case says that the FIR was filed by SI P Raghuganesh at 9:15 pm based on information from Head Constable Murugan who was on patrol duty at 9:15 pm at Kamaraj Salai. The FIR was filed more than an hour after the two were hauled up by the police. The report was signed by 10 pm.
The timing of the incident conflicts with the information from eyewitnesses. It also raises doubts on how the head constable managed to be in the station to make the complaint and on patrol at the same time on the same date.
Questions are also being raised on the physical condition of the duo in custody. The police in its FIR has said that the two had internal injuries after rolling on the road and resisting arrest. If there were internal injuries how did the magistrate sign off on judicial custody instead of immediate hospitalisation for treatment?
Then comes the question on how the magistrate gave the nod for judicial custody without checking the physical fitness of the duo, a mandatory step as per the criminal rule of practice rule 6. The duo had been profusely bleeding to the extent that they had to change clothes multiple times.
FAMILY DEMANDS MURDER CHARGE AGAINST COPS
The family of Jayaraj and Bennicks have demanded that a murder case be registered against two sub-inspectors, alleging they were responsible for the death of the two.
The relatives said they would not accept the bodies till their demand was met, even as the post mortem was held at the Tirunelveli Government Hospital. However, they later accepted the bodies on Thursday, expressing hope they would get justice and following assurances given by the officials.
Jayaraj’s daughter Persis, said, “My brother and father were brutalised and their death has to be filed as dual murders and severe action should be taken against the policemen and we are hoping that this will happen.”
As demand for action against those involved in the alleged custodial death rose, four policemen (two SIs and two constables) in the Sathankulam police station were suspended and the inspector in-charge had been transferred. However, public outcry has deemed the punishment insufficient.
Arun Balagopalan, SP, Thoothukudi said, “These are serious allegations and we have initiated the action of suspension of two SIs and two constables and one transfer of an inspector.”
Sandeep Nanduri, District Collector had said that “The full team at the Sattankulam police station will be changed. An SI and constable were transferred initially and later suspended.”
MADRAS HIGH COURT ORDERS PROBE
When the relatives of the deceased moved the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, it ordered video recording of the post-mortem, even as it took up the case on its own Wednesday.
IG South Zone Shanmuga Rajeswaran and Tuticorin district police chief Arun Balagopal appeared before the court in the virtual hearing on Wednesday.
The bench of Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendi directed the Tuticorin Superintendent of Police to submit a status report, post-mortem video, among others and posted the case for further hearing today.
On Friday, it said that people being attacked by police is another disease like Corona. The court has assured that justice will be given and that nobody should underestimate the court and its efforts.
The court also has instructed that the CCTV visuals of Kovilpatti jail, the register and documents should be kept safe for the court’s future use.
A judicial magistrate is also conducting an inquest.
OPPOSITION QUESTIONS AIADMK GOVERNMENT
Meanwhile, opposition parties have also raked the issue. DMK Thoothukudi MP and senior leader Kanimozhi visited the family on Thursday night and participated in the last rites of the father and son duo.
Kanimozhi after meeting the family said, “Two people have been killed. The people responsible for this should be punished just like how a person is punished for murder. Similar punishment should be given be it police officials or whoever it is. Money alone won’t equal the lives lost. They should get justice. A proper investigation must be conducted and the truth should be brought out.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the deaths and said it is a tragedy when protectors turn into oppressors.
Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswami talking about the incident earlier this week said, “Jayaraj and Fenix were arrested by the police and then they died in the hospital. The Kovilpati magistrate has been made in-charge to oversee the post-mortem of Jayaraj and Fenix. Madurai bench of the Madras high court is hearing the case as well. As per the courts order the state will act.”
Meanwhile, the state government announced 10 lakh compensation each and has promised government job for a family member according to their eligibility. The opposition party DMK has announced Rs 25 lakh monitory assistance for the family.
Source: India Today