The CBI has charge-sheeted nine Tamil Nadu policemen for murder, conspiracy and other offences in the custodial death case of the father-son duo who were arrested on a "fake" charge of violating the lockdown and tortured in Sathankulam police station in June this year, officials said Saturday.
The policemen have also been accused of destruction of evidence in the charge sheet filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Madurai on Friday in the alleged torture and murder of shopkeepers J Benniks and his father RP Jeyaraj, who ran a mobile phone shop in Thoothukudi district. The ghastly crime had triggered a massive outrage prompting the chief minister to seek a CBI probe in the matter.
In its charge sheet, the CBI has named the then Inspector and SHO S. Sridhar, Sub Inspectors K. Balakrishnan, P. Raghuganesh, Head Constables S. Murugan, A. Samadurai, and Constables M. Muthuraja, S. Chelladurai, X. Thomas Francis and, S. Veilumuthu posted at the police station. The CBI rushed to file the charge sheet as the three-month custody of the accused is getting over on September 30 making them eligible for bail, sources said.
The agency has alleged that after the torture of the two victims in the police station which led to their death, the police officials destroyed evidence and filed "fake" charges against them of violating the coronavirus lockdown by keeping their shops open beyond the permitted time, they said. When asked what was the motive behind the incident, the officials said the probe is being kept open.
During the investigation, nine CBI officers contracted COVID-19 while one of the accused sub-inspector died. All the remaining accused police personnel are under judicial custody, they said.
"A CBI team camped continuously at Madurai and worked untiringly in the cases, even through the odds of COVID 19 pandemic," CBI Spokesperson RK Gaur said. "The CBI investigation revealed that the father-son duo were arrested in the evening of 19.06.2020 and allegedly tortured at the Sathankulam Police Station by the accusedin the evening as well as in the intervening night, consequent to which both of them succumbed to the injuries and died in the intervening night of June 22, 2020 and June 23, 2020," he said.
After investigation, a combined charge sheet in both the cases has been filed, he said. "Further investigation is continuing to look into the role of other persons in the case," he said.
Meanwhile,the Judicial Magistrate probing the incident had told the Madras High Court that the policemen thrashed the deceased father-son the whole night in the police station. "Lathis were used" for allegedly assaulting them and a table carrying bloodstains bears testimony to the grisly crime. The findings were based on a statement of a woman police personnel attached to the police station where the alleged crime took place.
After the alleged torture, Jeyaraj and Benniks were sent to sub-jail under remand at around 2.30 AM on June 20 where they were kept as prisoner number 3636 and 3635 respectively. In the morning at around 7.45 am, Benniks complained of a wheezing problem and was taken to Kovilpatti government hospital in an autorickshaw. The doctors declared at 9 AM that he could not survive, the FIR had alleged.
Two days later at around 10.20 PM on June 22, Jeyaraj complained of fever and was taken to the government hospital. In the morning at around 5.40 AM the next day, doctors told the authorities that treatment failed and Jeyaraj too had died, it said.