The alleged custodial death of a 49-year-old man in Idukki district caused ripples in the Kerala assembly today, with members of the opposition Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) walking out in protest. The opposition has demanded that the Kerala police not be associated with an inquiry into the matter, arguing that it could not be trusted to conduct it in an impartial manner.
"The police will always protect the police. This is a brutal killing. In last three years there have been five custodial deaths. There has to be a judicial probe," Ramesh Chennithala, leader of the opposition, told reporters today.
"I have met the family members of Rajkumar. In a similar case of custodial death, police officials have been reinstated and one of them even promoted," he added.
Rajkumar's wife, Vijaya, today met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and demanded compensation and a job for a member of his family.
"We have met Chief Minister and given him petition demanding a CBI probe and he has assured us action. We will wait for two days for his response. We will start our protest in two days if we don't see results," she told NDTV.
Mr Vijayan, who is also Home Minister, has said strict action will be taken against any police personnel if there were lapses relating to Rajkumar's death.
"No one found guilty within the police will be spared. There is no place for such personnel in the force," the Chief Minister declared to the Assembly, adding, "No one has the right to beat up or kill people in custody."
Mr Vijayan also questioned the need for a judicial probe, pointing out to the Assembly that it would only delay the process further.
The Kerala High Court has also intervened in the matter, directing the local court to submit a report on why Rajkumar was not taken to a hospital following his order to remand.
Rajkumar, who was arrested on June 12 in connection with a financial fraud case, was only presented before the magistrate on June 16, after which he was remanded to 15 days judicial custody. He died five days later in Peermedu sub-jail.
A post-mortem report showed he died of pneumonia. However, the report also recorded the presence of several blunt force injuries, including broken ribs, and the repeated use of force on feet and palms. He suffered more than 30 injuries on his legs.
Four police personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector and a sub-inspector, have been suspended and eight others transferred.