"Something like this should never happen again in Tamil Nadu. Now people are even afraid to enter police stations", observed the Court
Significance of Sathankulam custodial deaths much broader than its criminal investigation, observes Madras High Court

The custodial death of P Jayaraj and his son, J Beniks resonated with the global outrage over the death of George Floyd in America, and once again brought to the forefront the horrors of police brutality. The nation stood in shock and grief over the death of two shop owners who were taken in police custody over violating lockdown guidelines. Had they been proven guilty of the same, then such guidelines violation would have resulted in a maximum three months imprisonment.

The investigation against the police officers is led by Anil Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police Crime Branch- CID until the CBI takes charge. A total of six people were booked for murder under Section 302 and other relevant sections under the IPC. The FIR was altered to include murder charges after the High Court observed on 30/06/2020, Tuesday that there was sufficient prima facie material for the case to be a murder case. The Court also urged for the investigation to proceed in a manner which restores confidence in the victim’s family that the court and police are with them.

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court led by hon'ble Justice PN Prakash and Hon’ble Justice B Pugalendhi observed orally that,

“Something like this should never happen again in Tamil Nadu. Now people are even afraid to enter police stations.”

There is an urgent need to better handle Mental health issues. The court observed that such incidents bring us face to face with bigger questions, such as- Why does one person hit another? Why does such violence occur in civil society? In civil society how do we prevent this? The need to have a more humane police system where such incidents do not happen was emphasised. In the same light, the various mental health programs which were conducted were also examined. The ADGP (welfare) told the court that from a study of approximately 5% of the police force shows high levels of stress.

The Madurai Bench of Hon'ble Madras High Court decided suo motu to monitor the case from last week. The case involved allegations of police brutality, inadequate medical treatment of the injured and tortured victims resulting in their ultimate demise while in police custody. These incidents warrant the suo moto action taken by the Court. A judicial inquiry into their deaths, under Section 176, CrPC, is now being conducted by the Judicial Magistrate No.1, Kovilpatti.  Keeping in mind the gravity of this case, the Court was of the view that the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, would exercise the powers of the Judicial Magistrate No.1, Kovilpatti, in this case.