Father, son die in judicial custody in Sattankulam, tension prevails

Relatives of the duo accused two police sub-inspectors of beating the men to death, and demanded the registration of murder cases against them

Tension prevails in Sattankulam in the district after a 60-year-old timber trader and his 31-year-old son, who were arrested by the police and subsequently lodged in the Kovilpatti sub-jail, died in hospital, one after the other, within a gap of just 10 hours, under mysterious circumstances.

Accusing the police of beating to death timber trader Jayaraj, 60, of Sattankulam and his son Bennix, 31, owner of a mobile phone sales and service showroom, members of the public staged a road blockade.

The protesters demanded the registration of murder cases against Sub-Inspectors of Police, Balakrishnan and Pauldurai, both attached to the Sattankulam police station, who allegedly thrashed the father and the son.

On June 19, when Jayaraj was in the mobile phone showroom of his son Bennix, the Sattankulam police picked him up for allegedly keeping the shop open in the evening in violation of lockdown restrictions. As the police reportedly verbally abused Jayaraj and assaulted him, his son Bennix, who came to the spot, appealed to the police to release his father.

When the police allegedly assaulted Jayaraj with a baton and roughed him up, Bennix tried to save his father. After thrashing the father and the son, the officers took them to the police station.

“Jayaraj and Bennix were thrashed again after they were taken to the police station, even as some of us were witnessing it from the entrance of the police station,” said their relatives.

Upon registering a case against Jayaraj and Bennix under Sections 188, 383 and 506 (II), the police lodged them in the Kovilpatti Sub-Jail.

“While the police brutally assaulted Bennix and inserted a baton into his anus that triggered uncontrolled bleeding, they smashed Jayaraj and kicked him on his chest multiple times with their shoes. We saw him bleeding profusely even as he was in police custody at Sattankulam police station,” charged relatives of Bennix.

At the Kovilpatti Sub-Jail, Bennix’s bleeding became uncontrollable due to an internal haemorrhage and he became unconscious on Monday evening. Though he was rushed to the Kovilpatti Government Hospital, he died around 9 p.m.

Jayaraj too developed “chest pain” even as he was in the prison, and was admitted to the Kovilpatti Government Hospital where he died around 8 a.m. on Tuesday. The death triggered tensions in Sattankulam.

Tiruchendur MLA Anita R. Radhakrishnan, who arrived at the spot around 10 a.m., joined the agitated protesters. “Both the officers recently thrashed a youth from nearby Peikulam without any reason. Now, they have murdered two innocents. A murder case should be registered against Mr. Balakrishnan and Mr. Pauldurai. Besides giving employment to two persons from the families of the deceased, the Tamil Nadu government should give ₹1 crore as compensation,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said.

Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan said the son, who had heart ailments, developed breathing problems in the jail and got admitted to the Kovilpatti Government Hospital, where he died. “His father (Jayaraj) was running high fever when he was arrested and was admitted to the isolation ward of Kovilpatti Government Hospital for monitoring. He died around 5 a.m. on Tuesday. Since they were under judicial remand, an autopsy will be done under the monitoring of Judicial Magistrate and a further course of action will be taken based on the post-mortem report,” Mr. Arun Balagopalan said.

Meanwhile, the sub-inspectors, Mr. Balakrishnan and Mr. Pauldurai have been shifted to the Armed Reserve Police Force.

Stalin seeks explanation from Chief Minister

DMK leader M.K. Stalin on Tuesday said Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami,who holds the Home Department, should take responsibility for the mysterious deaths of the father and son in Kovilpatti sub-jail.

In a statement, he said the police had arrested Bennix, who was running a shop in Sathankulam, and his father Jayaraj on June 19 in connection with violation of lockdown rules.

“They were lodged in the Kovilpatti sub-jail and Bennix had complained of chest pain on June 22. He was taken to the Kovilpati Government Hospital where he was declared dead. After sometime Jayaraj also died. Their deaths have raised a lot of doubts,” he alleged.

Mr. Stalin said people had resorted to agitations alleging that the police had brutally attacked the father and son. “Their family members and local people staged a protest near the Kamaraj statue in Sathankulam and Tiruchendur-Nagercoil road,” he said.

He said it was for the Chief Minister to give a proper explanation since he held the portfolio of the Home Department. “Those who are responsible for the death should be punished,” he said.

DMK MP Kanimozhi, representing the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha Constituency, also urged the district Collector to take severe action against those who were responsible for the deaths. “Their families should be given adequate compensation,” she said.

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