Five police officers, including main accused sub-inspector Raghu Ganesh, have been arrested for the custodial deaths of a father-son duo in Tamil Nadu.
Twelve special teams formed under the Inspector General and Superintendent of Police of CB-CID are investigating all angles in the case. Search and arrest parties have fanned out to arrest the remaining accused.
At least six have been booked in connection with the killings of the duo, with the section of two FIRs altered to include Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The specialised investigating agency has include charged with murder SIs Raghu Ganesh and Balakrishnan, and as many constables and members of Friends of Police (volunteers) of the Sathankulam police station, said sources in the CB-CID.
The arrest came shortly after Tamil Nadu Law Minister Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam assured that the government would ensure the "highest punishment" to those responsible for the deaths of P Jeyaraj and his son J Bennix.
The arrests led to celebrations in Thoothukudi, with locals bursting firecrackers.
Jayaraj, 60, and Bennix, 31, were arrested by the Thoothukudi police on June 19 for keeping their mobile store open after permitted hours. Relatives claim that Jayaraj, who was in the store, was picked up by police and verbally abused and assaulted. His son, Bennix, had later gone to the police station to plead with the police to release his father.
The duo was allegedly thrashed and a case was filed against them under IPC Sections 188, 383 and 506(II). They were later taken to the Kovilpatti sub-jail. Both died at a hospital in Kovilpatti on June 23 hours apart, with relatives alleging they were severely thrashed at Sathankulam police station.
The Judicial Magistrate probing the custodial killings, in his four-page report, had said there is evidence of assault on the father-son duo.
The magistrate had said that according to eyewitnesses, both the father and the son were assaulted by police officers through the night of June 19, resulting in blood marks on canes and the table on which the victims were laid and beaten.
The Madras High Court on Tuesday said there is enough evidence of assault on the bodies of Jayaraj and Bennix, adding that prima facie evidence can lead to registration of murder case against the police officers.
The incident has triggered a furore in the state, leading to the suspension of four policemen, including two sub-inspectors. The High Court had taken up the case and ordered a video recording of the post-mortem after the relatives of the two men moved the court.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had announced Rs 10 lakh each to the family of the deceased and a government job to one person from the family, based on their qualification.
The murder charges on Wednesday capped dramatic developments both in the court and outside where a woman head constable witness to the happenings told a magisterial probe that the two traders were thrashed an entire night by the other police personnel at Sathankulam station where they were detained.
The death of the duo, which saw an outpouring of anger with people from various walks of life condemning the "police brutality", also drew the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as it issued notices to the state police chief and Tuticorin Superintendent of Police seeking a detailed report.
Top Tamil film star Rajinikanth described the deaths as "brutal killing" and slammed the alleged inappropriate behaviour of some policemen with a Judicial Magistrate at the Sathankulam police station when he conducted an inquiry.
Incidentally, the Sathankulam police station is now under the Revenue Department control, seen as an "unprecedented" development so far in the country, after the high court issued an order after the conduct of the local police personnel came under intense scrutiny.
(With inputs from PTI)