Uproar in Tamil Nadu over custodial deaths of father-son duo

June 27, 2020: The custodial deaths of a father and son have sparked protests across parts of Tamil Nadu with many taking to the streets to demand justice.

DY365
DY365

June 27, 2020: The custodial deaths of a father and son have sparked protests across parts of Tamil Nadu with many taking to the streets to demand justice. Earlier this week, Jayaraj, 59, and his son Bennix, 31, were allegedly brutalised by the Sathankulam police for reportedly keeping their mobile shop open for a few minutes after the permitted time.

Their death has sparked public outrage and two sub-inspectors have been suspended so far. #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix has also become a top trend on Twitter

From May 19, many in the district have been demanding justice for Jayaraj and Fenix.

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 also 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.

Jayaraj and his son were later produced before the Magistrate and the duo was sent to Kovilpatti sub-jail. On that day, both the father and son were taken to the Kovilpatti government hospital where Fenix died in the evening and the following morning Jayaraj succumbed to respiratory illness.

Several questions have been raised over the police brutalities at play in the case and also the Judicial Magistrate D. Saravanan’s role in granting custody without conducting the mandated medical check-up.

The Madurai bench of Madras high court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and on June 24, a bench consisting of Justices P.M. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi ordered the Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi, to inquire into the incident and submit a status report.

Trader union bodies, various political outfits, activists, and the public at large have condemned the police atrocity and have staged protests in various parts of the town. Their demands include the arrest and suspension of the police officers responsible for the incident, compensation of Rs 50 lakh to the family members of the deceased and a government job to one member of the deceased’s family. They have also demanded that an impartial doctor should be present during the autopsy.

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