Two police officers and a constable in Tamil Nadu have been summoned by the Madras High Court over the deaths of a man and his son arrested for keeping their shop open beyond permitted hours during the coronavirus lockdown. The court has also said the state government must transfer the policemen or it will be "very difficult" to conduct a free and fair inquiry.
Deputy Superintendent of Police C Prathapan, Additional Deputy Superintendent of Police D Kumar and police constable Maharajan at Santhankulam in Tuticorin have been asked to appear at 10.30 am today before the court.
The High Court has initiated contempt action against the policemen based on the report of a Judicial Magistrate who has accused them of trying to obstruct him while he was investigating the case at Santhankulam in Tuticorin.
"You cannot do anything to us," constable Maharajan said, according to the magistrate's report to the court.
The Judicial Magistrate was tasked with investigating the circumstances in which Jeyaraj and Beniks died after their arrest earlier this month for keeping their mobile phone shop open 15 minutes beyond lockdown curfew. The deaths, blamed on egregious police torture, have sparked nationwide outrage and calls for murder charges against the police.
The High Court noted that the magistrate's report "clearly shows the district police administration are doing everything to prevent him from proceeding with the inquiry". It also said the constable had made disparaging remarks.
Jeyaraj, 59, and his son Beniks, 31, were arrested on June 19. The police claimed in their FIR that the two argued and fought with the police, showered verbal abuses and rolled around on the street to fight their arrest.
The two men were allegedly subjected to brutal torture at the police station. Their family alleges they had severe internal and external wounds, including rectal bleeding, when they were released.
Beniks died in hospital on June 22. His father died the next day.
There has been an outpouring of anger and grief over the deaths. Activists, politicians and celebrities have demanded murder charges against the policemen involved, many using the hashtag #JusticeForJeyarajAndBennicks.
The police have only registered a case of suspicious deaths till now. The state government today handed over the investigation to the CBI. Some activists said the move could dilute the case.