Police officers arrested for the custodial deaths of Jayaraj P and Bennicks J in Tamil Nadu were on Saturday assaulted by inmates of the Peroorani prison in Thoothukudi district, allegedly in an act of collective retribution for the alleged use of brutal force against the father-son duo from Sathankulam.
The officers, who are in judicial custody for charges including murder, were assaulted at around 4:30pm on Saturday when they accessed the common area in the prison. According to prison authorities, the arrested officers were having a conversation when the attack happened. Inmates of the Peroorani prison had been tracking the Jayaraj-Bennicks death case closely, according to prison authorities, and it had stoked high passions inside the prison. According to prison officials, the wardens rescued the police officers from the spot and ensured their safety.
Following this incident, the prison administration decided to shift them to another jail. Their first option was the Palayamkottai jail (Central jail), which already houses over a 1,000 inmates, meaning protecting the newcomers would be a challenge, the source said. It has now been decided to move the prisoners to the Madurai Jail.
The Peroorani prison can accommodate over 300 inmates but in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it hosts only 80 inmates. While the Inspector was put in a different cell, the other four police officers were given another cell.
The assault in prison happened within a week of all of them being arrested in a midnight operation by the CBCID. The CBCID began investigating the case on Wednesday. It arrested the prime suspect, SI Raghu Ganesh, around 7:30pm after interrogating him for over five hours. Two more officers, SI Balakrishnan and Constable Murugan, were arrested post midnight on Wednesday last week. Twelve special teams were set up to undertake the arrest of the officers.
Early on Thursday morning, Inspector Sridhar was arrested on the Tirunelveli-Madurai border. According to a CBCID source, the Inspector was on his way to Theni to evade arrest, evidenced by the presence of a suitcase in his car while he was apprehended. A day after, around 10pm, Constable Muthuraj who was hiding at a friend's place in his hometown was arrested.
The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks have turned into a national event, exposing the faultlines in the criminal justice system and the lack of sensitisation of the police force to rights of suspects. The arrest of the police officers was hailed with the bursting of firecrackers in Sathankulam. Apparently, some of the police officers were involved in earlier assaults as well. All five arrested officers have murder charges against them.