CHENNAI / TIRUCHY :It has taken almost 19 years to make the first arrest in a custodial death of a Dalit man who was picked up in a kidnap case in Perambalur district.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had been probing the case for the past one year on the orders issued by the Madras High Court, arrested Kasthuri Gandhi, presently Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in Madurai, who is in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), on Tuesday. He was brought to Tiruchy by the CBI officials to produce him before Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in connection with the case.
Gandhi was later admitted to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital on Tuesday after he developed chest pain.
Gandhi, a former inspector of Kunnam police station, had reportedly picked up Pandian, a Dalit youth and daily wage labourer, working at Kothavalchavadi market, in 1995, to Perambalur and then composite to Tiruchy, in connection with the elopement of a minor girl from a caste Hindu community with a Dalit man.
According to police, Pandian, a native of Colony Street in Anthur village near Veppur in Perambalur district (a part of the combined Tiruchy district previously) was a labourer in a rice mill in the same locality owned by one Seeman.
Seeman’s daughter Rani had eloped with Mohan, a Dalit boy from the same village in 1994. As a massive search for the couple went in vain, Seeman filed a habeas corpus petition in the Madras HC.
Upon instruction by the court, Kunnam police registered a case. Subsequently, Pandian was taken into custody by the police in August 1995. A police team comprising Gandhi, and other police personnel - Anbarasu, Chinnadurai and Ravi - secured Pandian assuming that he might have known the whereabouts of the couple in Chennai.
On Aug 24, 1995, Pandian was found ‘hanging’ from a neem tree and primarily a case of suicide was registered.
Pandian’s wife Anjalam charged that her husband was tortured and done to death and demanded that the prosecution be launched against the quartet.
She filed a writ petition with the Madras High Court, which in June last year, ordered a CBI probe into the incident and a relief of `5 lakh towards compensation to the victim’s kin.
Despite the autopsy report suggesting that there were injuries on the body and Pandian had died of assault before being hanged, the revenue divisional officer’s report termed it as a case of suicide and so did the police. Anjalam’s petition for impartial probe and compensation was initially dismissed by a Single Judge of the High Court. Her appeal was allowed and a CBI probe was ordered.