The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a PIL seeking to restrain Tamil Nadu Chief Minister EK Palaniswamy from holding the home ministry portfolio till completion of probe and the trial in the Sathankulum twin custodial death case of P Jayaraj and J Bennicks recently.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna, which heard the case through video conferencing, did not agree with the submissions of lawyer A Rajarajan on the issue.
Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennicks were picked up by police at Tuticorin for questioning for keeping their mobile accessories shop open during the lockdown on June 19 and both succumbed to injuries allegedly received during their custody.
Rajarajan, in the PIL, had alleged the chief minister made a "public statement" on June 24 saying that the victims died of illness.
Referring to the statements of victims' family members, the plea had said the deceased persons were subjected to severe physical torture by the cops of Sathankulam police station before being remanded in the criminal case and the cause of death was custodial torture.
"On June 24, the first respondent who is the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and who holds the portfolio of ministry of home affairs gave a public statement in the press meet that the deceased persons died due to illness and thereby ruled out foul play in the death of above said deceased persons.
"That free and fair investigation is not at all possible under administrative leadership of the 1st respondent who is heading the home department and further the role of 1st respondent in screening and safeguarding the persons accused of section 302 (murder) of the IPC by using his official capacity have to be investigated," it had said.
Initially, an FIR was lodged in the case under CrPC to determine the cause of death of the father-son duo. Later, the family alleged foul play and lodged a complaint on June 23 before a senior police officer.
The issue of alleged custodial torture, leading to deaths, evoked public anger and the Madras High Court took suo motu (on its own) congnizance of it and passed slew of directions pertaining to the ongoing probe in the case.
The PIL had termed as "highly improper" the statement of the Chief Minister saying that the victims died of illness.
The Deputy Superintendent of Police of CBCID took up the probe on July 1 in pursuance of the High Court's directions and has prima facie found that some policemen tortured the victims.
Now the provision of murder has been added in the FIR and some officials, including the erstwhile Inspector and Sub-Inspector of the said police station have been arrested.