The case of a father and son who died in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin amid allegations of police brutality in custody will be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation, Chief Minister E Palaniswami said today. The controversial case sparked massive outrage across the country after the father and son were allegedly tortured by the police before being sent to jail for apparently keeping their shop open beyond permissible hours during lockdown.
"The government has decided to have a CBI probe. We would hand over the case to CBI with permission from the Madras High Court. We would do this during the next hearing. Presently the Madras High Court is probing on its own," the chief minister said.
J Jayaraj, 59, and Beniks Immanuel, 31, were subjected to brutal torture in police custody, a letter from Jayaraj's wife to government officials states. She has demanded action against the policemen involved in the case which has been widely compared to the death of George Floyd in the United States.
E Palaniswami and his deputy O Pannerselvam had in a statement called the deaths "very unfortunate" and vowed justice in the case.
The state's opposition DMK had said they will request for a CBI probe into the deaths in court if the state government does not investigate it properly, party chief MK Stalin said on Saturday.
Actor-politician Kamal Haasan had lashed out at the Chief Minister and his government over the case, labelling them "prime accused". He was among many who hit out at the government.
Lakhs of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix with celebrities and politicians condemning police action.
Jayaraj and Beniks were picked up on Friday, June 19, for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules, the police in Sathankulam, a town located 50 km south of the port city of Tuticorin, said in an FIR.
Beniks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Jayaraj died Tuesday, Chief Minister Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday. Four policemen, including two sub-inspectors have been suspended and an inspector have been benched by the state government.
The family has alleged injuries to the rectum and pointed to other alleged signs of torture, like tufts of hair pulled from the chest, and demanded murder charges against the cops involved.
Jayaraj and his son had been charged with criminal intimidation and verbally abusing police officers.
Though the First Information Report (FIR) mentions the name of the son as Pennis, his family says his name is Beniks. A Madras High Court document has spelt it as Bennicks.
There was a massive protest in Tuticorin, with shops closed in the districts and other parts of Tamil Nadu on Friday. E Palaniswami has announced a total of Rs 20 lakh as compensation and a job for the family.
Family members had first refused to accept their bodies after an autopsy. They accepted the bodies the next day expressing hope they would get justice and following assurances given by the officials.
The DMK has given the family Rs 25 lakh and assured legal help.