J Beniks (L) and P Jeyaraj (R). (Credits: PTI)
NEW DELHI: Death of a father and son duo in police custody has sparked national outrage on social media against police brutality. P Jeyaraj (58) and his son J Beniks (31), residents of Sathankulam town near Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu were taken into custody for violating Covid-19 curfew hours. They died four days later. Here is what you need to know about the case:
Why were Jeyaraj and Beniks arrested?
As per the FIR filed by the police, the duo was arrested on the night of June 19 for keeping their shop, APJ Mobiles, open beyond permitted time. A case was filed against them for violating curfew timing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown under relevant charges.
However, a close friend of Beniks said the events that led to the arrests had started on June 18 night when police asked shop owners to down shutters around 8pm. Jeyaraj was standing in front of his son’s shop along with a few others at that time. Someone informed police the next morning that Jeyaraj had passed a rude comment when police announcement was made the previous night.
Following this, around 7.30pm on June 19, a constable approached Jeyaraj — who was talking to a couple of people in front of Beniks’s shop, as per a CCTV-footage from King Electricals, located next to Beniks’s shop.
The video shows Jeyaraj accompanying a couple of constables to the police vehicle parked on the other side of the road. Beniks follows his father to the police vehicle and in under a minute, he returns to the shop.
As per Beniks’s friend police took Jeyaraj in the vehicle and asked Beniks to meet them at the police station.
Beniks’s friend said that at this time all shops were open as can be seen in the video which is proves that APJ Mobiles had not exceeded the stipulated time for closure of shops on June 19.
In the FIR, the police has given a completely different story of arrest.
It says the father and the son were having a conversation with a few others when police arrived at the spot. When told, others left the place, but Jeyaraj and Beniks sat on the floor and rolled on the road, “causing internal injuries”.
The FIR also says that the father-son duo abused policemen when they were asked to shut shop. This forced police to go back to the police station and register a case against them, the FIR states.
What happened after the arrest?
As per Beniks’s friend, three acquaintances of the duo followed them to the police station, with few others.
“We heard cries of both Jeyaraj and Beniks for hours as police tortured them through the night of June 19,” said the friend.
On June 20, the family saw the duo in bad shape. They were taken to the Sathankulam government hospital. Jeyaraj’s veshti and Beniks’s pants were fully soaked in blood.
After three hours at the hospital, they were then taken to Sathankulam magistrate court. Both were sent on remand to Kovilpatti Sub Jail in a matter of few moments.
For next two days, the family had no news of the duo until they were shifted to the nearby hospital on June 22.
Beniks kept bleeding due to the alleged torture in the custody which eventually resulted in his death on June 22 evening. His father, Jeyaraj died on June 23.
What has happened in the case so far?
Family and friends of Jeyaraj and Beniks have demanded an enquiry into the alleged custodial torture which resulted in the death of the father-son duo. Meanwhile, the police has maintained that the injuries sustained by the duo were not due to torture in the police custody but because the two”rolled on the road” while resisting arrest on the night of June 19.
The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court took suo moto cognizance of the matter and directed the Kovilpatti judicial magistrate to go to the jail where the incident had taken place and photograph the administrative, medical records and collect all the CCTV records related to the case.
So far, two senior inspectors have been suspended while departmental action is also being taken against two chief guards of the jail, as reported by the Superintendent of Police (SP) Thoothukudi in his status report to the Madras High Court.
No case has been registered against the police, but during the hearing on June 30, the court took note of wounds and judicial inquirer’s findings and said that there are sufficient grounds for the registration of a case against police officials in the matter.
The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court also directed Thoothukudi Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Anil Kumar and the Crime Branch of Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) to take up the investigation in the case.