The Madras HC, Madurai Bench on Monday initiated suo moto contempt proceedings against three police officers for obstructing the HC-ordered inquiry by Judicial Magistrate into the horrific custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix in Sathankulam town in Tamil Nadu.
The Court action was based on the report by the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti against Thoothukudi ASP D Kumar, DySP C Prathapan and police constable Mahajan.
A bench comprising Justices P N Prakash and B Pugalendhi observed "District Police administration are doing everything within their command to prevent the learned Magistrate from proceedings with enquiry".
"The report shows that Mr D Kumar, Additional Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin and Mr C Prathapan, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin made themselves available in the Sathankulam police station and in their very presence, the other police men were taking videos of the Magisterial proceedings. The policemen were not giving the records called for by the learned Magistrate and it is seen that one of them, viz, Mahajan, Police Constable, Sathankulam Police Station, had made a very disparaging remark in Tamil to the learned Magistrate", the bench observed.
The Court said that the report of the Magistrate was sufficient to take cognizance of criminal contempt under Section 15(1) read with Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 against the said officers.
It may be noted that the Magistrate is holding the inquiry as directed by the High Court on June 26 in a suo moto case taken with respect to the custodial deaths.
The HC also noted that a free and fair investigation is not possible unless the said officers and the officers of Sathankulam police station are transferred.
"We are of the view that unless the State Government intervenes immediately to transfer the Additional Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin and other policemen in Sathankulam, Police Station, it will be very difficult for a free and fair investigation and inquiry".
The named officers have been asked to appear before the court in person tomorrow at 10.30 AM.
The matter pertains to the custodial deaths of father-son duo, Jeyaraj and Bennix, on June 22/23, after they were arrested for allegedly keeping their shop open in violation of lockdown guidelines.
The reports of their brutal torture inflicted on them have sparked a country wide outrage against the policemen.
The HC on Monday also directed the District Collector to depute revenue officials to preserve the materials related to the case, after the Magistrate complained of non-cooperation by the police.