Custodial death of P Jayaraj and Bennicks

On 19 June 2020, P. Jayaraj (59 years old) and his son J. Bennicks (also spelled Fennix, Bennix) (31 years old) were picked up for inquiry by the Tamil Nadu Police in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi district for allegedly violating the Indian government's COVID-19 lockdown rules. According to the police, the duo was held for allegedly keeping their mobile accessories shop open beyond permissible hours on June 19. An FIR was filed against the two on 19 June and both were taken into custody. They were sexually assaulted and tortured by the police while in custody, leading to their deaths. On 22 June 2020, Bennicks fell ill and was moved to the Kovilpatti General Hospital, where he died later that day. The following day, 22 June 2020, his father also died. The custodial death of the two men in Tamil Nadu’s Sathankulam town in Thoothukudi district has sparked massive outrage in the state over police brutality.[1][2]

Custodial death of P. Jayaraj and J. Bennicks
DateJune 19–23, 2020 (2020-06-19 – 2020-06-23)
Time7:45 PM IST, UTC+05:30
LocationSathankulam, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, India.
DeathsP. Jayaraj (age 59)
J. Bennicks (age 31)
InquestThree doctors conducted post-mortem in the presence of the judicial magistrate. The entire procedure was video-recorded.
ArrestsSreedhar
Balakrishnan
Raghu Ganesh.
Murugan
Muthu Raj
TrialOngoing
Reason for arrestLockdown violation (alleged)

Timeline of EventsEdit

On 19 June 2020, according to multiple eyewitnesses, the Sathankulam police had picked up Jayaraj and taken him to the police station to conduct an inquiry about an argument that had allegedly taken place between the police and a few others near Jayaraj’s wood workshop the previous day.

On 19 June 2020, around 7:30 pm, Bennicks was in his shop near the Kamarajar statue in Sathankulam town when his friend rushed to him with the news that his father Jayaraj had been picked up by the police. Worried about his father, Bennicks and the friend rushed to the Sathankulam police station. Bennicks was called in by the police while he was waiting outside. When he went in to question why his father had been taken to the station, he was allegedly assaulted. Soon, friends of Bennicks, who are lawyers, gathered outside the police station. According to Bennicks's friends, they heard the police shout "You dare speak against the police". Eyewitness say that violence inside the police station escalated when Sub-Inspector Raghu Ganesh arrived. Police volunteers present inside the station also allegedly started assaulting the duo. Lawyers were not allowed to meet Bennicks or his father until 20 June.[3][4]

On 20 June 2020, according to the duo's lawyer Maniraman, they had to change as many as six lungis due to the profuse bleeding from their rectums. The police took Jayaraj and Bennicks to Kovilpatti Hospital for medical fitness testing. After that, they were taken to Sathankulam Magistrate D Saravanan, who remanded the injured duo in custody without examining their physical condition.[5]

On 22 June 2020, while Bennicks was undergoing treatment at Government Hospital, Kovilpatti, he died at 9:00 pm, due to heavy internal bleeding.[citation needed] P. Jayaraj was admitted at Government Hospital, Kovilpatti by the authorities of Sub Jail, Kovilpatti on the same day at 10:30 pm.[citation needed]

On 23 June 2020, at 5:40 am, P. Jayaraj died due to a punctured lung while undergoing treatment.[citation needed]

High Court and Human Rights CommissionEdit

The Madurai bench of Madras High Court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and on 24 June, a bench consisting of Justices P.N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi ordered the Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi, to inquire into the incident and submit a status report.[6] An order was given to videograph the autopsy, which the court ordered to be done by a panel of three experts in the presence of a magistrate[7] after the police completed its inquest proceedings. Copies of both reports of the autopsy and inquest were submitted to the high court. State Human Rights Commission Tamil Nadu has taken suo motu cognizance of the offence and asked the Police Department to file a reply in this regard.[8]

Judicial inquiryEdit

During the pendency of the autopsy inquiry, Magistrate M S Bharathidasan submitted a report to the High Court describing rude behaviour by Constable Maharajan at the Sathankulam police station. In the report, the Magistrate said Constable Maharajan made a “very disparaging remark” against him in the presence of D Kumar, Additional Superintendent of Police and C Prathapan, Deputy Superintendent of Police, even as policemen at the station recorded the videos of the proceeding.[9] Following the complaint, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court began a suo motu contempt of court proceeding and ordered the Inspector General of Police for the South Zone to take action against the officers. The Inspector General suspended Maharajan; D Kumar, ADSP, and C Prathapan, DSP was moved to a waiting list. The High Court also directed the Thoothukudi district collector to depute revenue officials and take control of the police station to enable the magistrate to collect the necessary documents. This incident represents the first time in the history of Indian Police that a district administration had seized control of a police station. The judges further directed the Additional Director of Forensic Sciences department to send a team of experts to collect materials from the station.[10]

Reaction on social mediaEdit

” Reeling from what I'm hearing. Absolutely stunned, sad, and angry. No human being deserves such brutality, whatever be their crime. The guilty must not be allowed to go unpunished. We need facts. I cannot even begin to imagine what the family must be going through. Sending strength and prayers. We need to use our collective voices to seek #JusticeForJayarajandBennicks”

Priyanka Chopra wrote on Twitter [11]

Celebrities, politicians, and several notable people used social media to reveal the details of the attack and condemn the police action. Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, which was among the top Twitter topics trending in India on 26 June 2020 and among the top 30 trending globally.[12][13] Celebrities, including Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Suchitra, Siddharth, Khushbu Sundar, Jayam Ravi, Karthik Subbaraj, D. Imman, Suriya used the hashtag. [14] [15] Jignesh Mevani, a social activist and lawyer from Gujarat in western India, wrote on Twitter that "The George Floyd of India are far too many". [16][17] Film director Hari issued a statement condemning police brutality and expressing regret for glorifying policemen in five of his films.[18][19]

Official responseEdit

” What has happened in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district is worse than the Nirbhaya case for which four persons involved were hanged early this year. ”

— Retired chief Justice of Supreme Court of India Markandey Katju wrote on The Week [20]

The Police Department had suspended two sub inspectors and an inspector. The entire team in the Sathankulam police station, including those in other ranks, have been transferred to other locations.[21] [22] [23] Kanimozhi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha for the Thoothukudi Constituency said the incident was a collective failure of police and other officials and a gross violation of human rights. [24][25] On 28 June, The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has directed the probe into the deaths be handed over to the CBI. [26][27]

AftermathEdit

On 8 July 2020, the Office of the Additional Chief Secretary issued an order disbanding the Friends of Police movement in the whole of Tamil Nadu.[28] This reversed an earlier order issued in 1994, which extended the Friends of Police movement to the whole state of Tamil Nadu.[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Tamil Nadu Can't Turn Blind Eye to Police Torture: Amnesty India". The Quint. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  2. ^ ""India's George Floyds": Father-son death in police custody sparks outrage". Reuters. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  3. ^ www.thenewsminute.com https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/justice-jayaraj-fenix-bennix-timeline-two-shocking-custodial-deaths-tn-127424. Retrieved 28 June 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Thoothukudi: Outrage after father, son die in police custody". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  5. ^ Kaveri, Megha (26 June 2020). "Justice for Jayaraj and Bennix: Timeline of two shocking custodial deaths in TN". The News Minute. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Tamil Nadu: Social Media Outrage, Protests Over Brutal Thoothukudi Custodial Deaths". The Wire. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  7. ^ Jun 24, M. K. Ananth | TNN | Updated; 2020; Ist, 06:22. "Man, son die in custody: Relatives, traders complain of police torture in Tamil Nadu | Chennai News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 29 June 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Vignessh (24 June 2020). "Sexual torture inflicted on father-son in TN police custody: Witnesses". The Federal. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Police used disparaging remarks: JM probing father, son custodial deaths". Deccan Herald. 29 June 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Sathankulam police not cooperating with judicial inquiry; HC orders revenue officials to take control of police station". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Priyanka Chopra condemns alleged custodial deaths of father-son in Tuticorin". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  12. ^ "'India's George Floyds': Father-son death in police custody sparks outrage". Reuters. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Tamil Nadu Can't Turn Blind Eye to Police Torture: Amnesty India". The Quint. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  14. ^ ChennaiJune 26, Janani K.; June 26, 2020UPDATED; Ist, 2020 17:28. "Tuticorin custodial death: Khushbu to Jayam Ravi, celebs demand justice". India Today. Retrieved 29 June 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "Indian cricketers Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan call for justice in Tamil Nadu custodial death case". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  16. ^ Reuters (27 June 2020). "'India's George Floyds': Father-Son Death in Police Custody Sparks Outrage". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  17. ^ "'India's George Floyds': Father-son death in police custody sparks outrage". cnbctv18.com. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Regret glorifying police brutality: Director Hari". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  19. ^ Reporter, Staff (29 June 2020). "Govt. action in custodial deaths case insufficient: Kamal Haasan". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  20. ^ "OPINION: Thoothukudi police violence case worse than Nirbhaya". The Week. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  21. ^ "Sathankulam station inspector Sridhar suspended over custodial deaths". www.thenewsminute.com. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  22. ^ Vignessh (23 June 2020). "Tension grips TN's Tuticorin district due to custodial death of father-son duo". The Federal. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  23. ^ Jun 23, M. K. Ananth | TNN | Updated; 2020; Ist, 16:16. "Sathankulam News: Custodial deaths of father-son duo spark tension in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin | Chennai News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 28 June 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ "DMK MP Kanimozhi writes to NHRC over 'custodial death' of shopkeeper, son". The Indian Express. 26 June 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  25. ^ "COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu: Kanimozhi writes to NHRC over custodial deaths; 3000 TASMAC outlets to have CCTV cameras". The Indian Express. 26 June 2020. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  26. ^ Reporter, Staff (28 June 2020). "Sattankulam custodial deaths | CBI will investigate the case, says Tamil Nadu CM". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Will seek permission from Court to transfer Tuticorin custodial death case to CBI: Palaniswami". ANI News. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  28. ^ "Government of Tamil Nadu : Government Orders | Tamil Nadu Government Portal" (PDF). Government of Tamil Nadu : Government Orders. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 10 July 2020.