Two officers of a CBI team probing the alleged extrajudicial killing of a man and his son by Tamil Nadu police personnel in Tuticorin have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said on Thursday. The affected officers — a sub inspector and a head constable — have been admitted to a local hospital and the remaining team will be tested for coronavirus immediately to rule out any asymptomatic case, they said.
Seeing the public outcry on alleged police excesses resulting in the death of RP Jeyaraj and his son J Benniks, the agency had swung into action as soon as it received a reference from the Centre to proceed with its investigation and had dispatched a team from its special crime unit, they said. It was alleged that the Jeyaraj and Bennicks were arrested by Sathankulam police for alleged violation of prohibitory orders in force due to COVID-19 lockdown by keeping their mobile phone shop open in the district beyond the allowed time.
They were taken to jail in the early hours of June 20 where Bennicks died on the same day, while Jeyaraj succumbed to injuries on June 23. The CBI team reached the location and conducted a number of interviews with the witnesses and accused police personnel, they said.
It collected crucial forensic evidence and met a large number of people during the field work, possibly exposing the members to the contagious pathogen, they said. The agency is contemplating sending additional manpower for the probe, they said.
The ghastly manner in which father and son were allegedly beaten by police personnel had evoked a sharp response from civil society, movie industry and political parties, resulting in the recommendation of the CBI probe by the state government. The judicial magistrate probing the deaths had told Madras High Court that the policemen allegedly thrashed the deceased whole night in the police station with lathis and a bloodstained table bore testimonies of the gruesome crime.
The findings were based on a statement from a woman police personnel attached to the police station where the alleged crime took place. Mentioning Head Constable Revathy's statement in a four-page report to the Madras High Court Madurai Bench, the judicial magistrate probing the deaths said she feared that she would receive threats if she revealed the facts.