Five of the ten policemen arrested in the Tamil Nadu father-son custodial deaths case will be in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI for two days, a court in Madurai said today. The central probe agency wanted to interrogate the policemen for five days. These include inspector Sridhar, two Sub Inspectors Raghu Ganesh and Balakrishnan, besides two constables.
The five cops - lodged at the Madurai Central Prison - were presented before the court today.
The cops face allegations of torture of father and son traders - Jeyaraj and Beniks - who died in judicial custody in Tuticorin last month. The family alleges the men arrested for allegedly keeping their shop open beyond 8 PM were tortured the whole night at the Sathankulam police station before they were put behind bars the next afternoon. The family says they saw tell-tale signs of torture including rectal bleeding, pulling of chest hair and other forms of violence.
Collection of concrete evidence will be a huge challenge for the CBI. Already the Magistrate who is probing the case has told the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that crucial CCTV footage from the Sathankulam Police Station remains deleted as the station had programmed the computer to delete recordings every day and it wasn't preserved.
He had also reported intimidation and non-cooperation by the police after which the court directed the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) to probe the case citing, on the face of it, there are grounds for murder cases against the police on the basis of the post-mortem report. The police station too was temporarily brought under the control of the revenue department till collection of evidence and forensic examination was over. A few days ago the CB-CID handed over all the evidence and documents it had gathered to the CBI.
Revathy, a woman constable, has however testified the attack on the men the whole night and she had even cited blood stains on tables and sticks.
CCTV footage showing the mobile shop of the men too doesn't show any argument by the men with the police at least in camera view or rolling over on the ground sustaining internal injuries themselves as claimed by the police's First Information Report or FIR.
The CBI has already incorporated murder charges. Initially, the Tuticorin district police had only filed cases of suspicious deaths. The custodial deaths after alleged police torture had triggered national outrage. Chief Minister EK Palaniswami, who heads the police, and the state DGP have not commented on torture allegations so far.
Human rights campaigners are also demanding a probe into the role of the Magistrate who approved remand of the accused men for a simple case reportedly without meeting them and the doctor who certified them fit for judicial remand.