'Sathankulam cops tortured father-son duo for 7 hours'

Sathankulam police tortured father-son duo for seven hours, says CBI

P Jeyaraj and Bennix were tortured by Sathankulam police in Tamil Nadu on June 19, 2020 after an 'illegal' arrest

In this undated combo photo, Emmanuel Bennix (31) and his father P Jeyaraj (62), who died due to injuries sustained in police custody. Credit: PTI Photo

Egged on by the inspector, nine policemen at the Sathankulam police station in Thoothukudi district subjected P Jeyaraj and his son Emmanuel Bennix to “several rounds” of "brutal torture" after their "illegal" arrest on June 19 leading to their death, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has concluded in its investigation.

The horror that took place inside the Sathankulam police station from 7:30 pm on June 19 to the time they were remanded the next day has been narrated in the charge sheet filed against S Sridhar, Inspector of Police, and eight other policemen—the ninth person died due to Covid-19—by the CBI.

The duo was arrested for allegedly violating Covid-19 rules. However, the CBI has made it clear there was no violation of rules.

The charge sheet, accessed by DH, corroborates the family's version that the father-son duo was tortured by police for no reason. While the son died on June 22, the father breathed his last a few hours later on June 23. The custodial deaths sent shock waves across the nation after which the Tamil Nadu government arrested the policemen and handed over the case to CBI.

Busting "every lie" of the police version, the CBI investigation concluded that Jeyaraj and Bennix were innocent having committed no crime but were arrested due to a "criminal conspiracy" hatched by the policemen, and beaten up and tortured for hours by making them "bow down" on a wooden table with just underwear on them.

Also Read | Father-son duo died due to torture in police custody: CBI

Worse is that Bennix was asked to "clean the blood that had oozed" from the wounds suffered by him and his father and those scattered on the floor and walls of the police station, in a bid to destroy any shred of evidence.

The father-son duo was tortured inside the police station by nine policemen, who took turns to beat them up, at the instigation of inspector Sridhar, who "prodded the staff" to start "fresh rounds of beating" when there was a lull, the charge sheet said.

Besides Sridhar, the charge sheet blames sub-inspectors K Balakrishnan, P Raghuganesh, head constables S Murugan, A Samadurai, and police constables M Muthuraja, S Chelladurai, X Thomas Francis, and S Veilumuthu for the crime.

The CBI also blamed Dr N Vinila, Medical Officer at the Sathankulam Government Hospital, for declaring the father-son duo "fit for remand" despite their injuries on the buttocks and other parts of the body.

"Both (Jeyaraj and Bennix), turn by turn, were made to bow down on a wooden table in underwear only, their hands and legs were caught hold by accused police officials, so that they were not able to defend themselves...Though Jeyaraj begged that given his high BP and diabetic condition, he would not be able to sustain such grievous injuries, still no one paid any heed and the accused police officials continued with several rounds of brutal torture with intervals in between 7.45 pm on 19.06.2020 to 3 am on 20.06.2020," the charge sheet said.

The CBI investigation also found that the arrest of Jeyaraj and Bennix was "illegal" in the first place while noting that two policemen picked up the father from near his shop after which the son arrived at the police station. There was an altercation between Bennix and the policemen on his father's arrest after which the torture began, the document said.

Jeyaraj and Bennix were bleeding continuously and they were "limping" and were "not able to walk or sit properly when they were brought to the hospital on June 20 morning because of the severe injuries inflicted on them the previous night, the CBI said, adding that the post-mortem report had also concluded that the injuries found on the bodies of the duo were "1 to 3 days" of age.

The CBI also noted that the father-son duo was "hale and hearty" when they left their home on June 19 for their shops and contended that the admission register at the Kovilpatti sub-jail where they were remanded contains entries pf "wounds available in the gluteal region" of the body.

The charge sheet also said the blood on the lathi used by the policemen to torture the father-son duo and bloodstains collected from the walls of the police station contain the blood of the deceased.