Amid outrage over the deaths in custody of a man and his son arrested in Tamil Nadu earlier this month for keeping their shop open beyond curfew during the coronavirus lockdown, the police chief of Tuticorin has been replaced and three policemen may face murder charges.
Tuticorin Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan has been replaced by S Jeyakumar.
The Madras High Court said today there are grounds to charge three policemen allegedly involved in the father-son deaths with murder based on their post-mortem reports.
Two police officers are "on wait" and a constable has been suspended for allegedly trying to block investigations into the deaths at Santhankulam in Tuticorin, which have been blamed on egregious beating and torture in custody.
The High Court has initiated contempt action against Deputy Superintendent of Police C Prathapan, Additional Deputy Superintendent of Police D Kumar and police constable Maharajan after a Judicial Magistrate accused them of trying to obstruct his inquiry.
"You cannot do anything to us," constable Maharajan said, according to the magistrate's report to the court.
Jeyaraj, 59, and his son Beniks, 31, were arrested on June 19 for keeping their mobile phone shop open 15 minutes beyond permitted hours. The police claimed the two had fought, showered verbal abuses and rolled around on the street while resisting arrest.
The two men were allegedly subjected to brutal torture in police custody. Their family alleges they had severe internal and external wounds, including rectal bleeding.
Beniks was admitted to hospital at 7.45 pm on June 22. He died around 9 pm, according to a timeline released last night by the police. His father was admitted around 10.30 pm the same night. Jeyaraj died early next day, at 5.40 am.
The deaths have generated waves of outrage and calls for murder charges against the police involved. Activists, politicians and celebrities have called for justice.
The police had only registered a case of suspicious deaths till now. The state government has handed over the investigation to the CBI.