‘The vehicle’s seats were soaked in blood’: Eyewitnesses say Thoothukudi traders who died in police custody were grievously injured

Relatives of Jeyaraj and his son Beniks, who died in custody have alleged brutal torture and assault by the police and claimed that the duo, despite bleeding profusely, were denied medical assistance.

Published: 25th June 2020 10:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2020 04:47 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: Relatives of 60-year-old P Jeyaraj and his 31-year-old son J Beniks, who died in custody have alleged brutal torture and assault by the police and claimed that the duo, despite bleeding profusely, was denied medical assistance for two days. Rajaram, a friend of Benicks’, told New Indian Express that the father and son were in so much pain that he could not bear to see them in that condition. 

The incident

Jeyaraj was taken to the Sathankulam Police station on Friday, June 19 allegedly for keeping his timber shop open beyond 9 pm the previous day. Beniks, who ran a mobile phone shop, went to the station to enquire about his father. Beniks, according to his friends, saw Inspector Srithar assaulting Jeyaraj. When Beniks demanded that the inspector stop assaulting his father, it is alleged that Srithar ordered the other policemen to beat Beniks.

Advocate Manimaran, a Beniks’ childhood friend, claimed he heard the police personnel shout, “You dare speak against the police” while assaulting the duo. 

Manimaran said that the violence against father and son escalated once Sub Inspector Raghu Ganesh arrived at the station around 11.30 pm. He claimed that Friends of Police volunteers, who were also present, joined the police in assaulting the duo.

“We pleaded with each of the policemen, individually, to stop the beating but they did not. We begged the police to release them on station bail but they told us to leave the station and get bail from the court,” Manimaran claimed, adding that father and son were booked under Sections 188, 269, 294(b), 353 and 506(2) of the IPC. Police allegedly assaulted Jeyaraj and Beniks again at 1 am and 4 am on Saturday.

Also Read: Custodial deaths: Family refuses to receive traders’ bodies


On Saturday morning, father and son were shifted to the government Sathankulam hospital. 

Rajaram said they were both bleeding profusely, so much so that they had to change six lungis. 

"Beniks was bleeding profusely from the rectum and he said the bleeding was not stopping," said an eye-witness who did not want to be named. “His father too was bleeding from behind… They had inserted a lathi into the anus and that had caused the bleeding,” the eye-witness claimed, adding that they had injuries on the face and rest of the body as well. 

A relative, who sought anonymity, said police did not allow friends and family to enter the hospital as the police obtained a medical fitness certificate from a doctor.

Manimaran claimed that Sathankulam Judicial Magistrate B Saravanan, while remanding the duo to 14-day judicial custody at the Kovilpatti Sub Jail, did not look at Jeyaraj and Beniks properly, nor did he ask about their health. 

“The magistrate would not have remanded them if he had gone through the FIR filed against them in connection with a brawl over closing of shops amid restrictions during the lockdown,” he said. 

Another eye-witness said the police told Beniks’ friends to hire a vehicle to take father and son to the sub-jail and hand them over to the warden. “The seats of the vehicle in which they were taken to the hospital were soaked in blood,” this person said. 

Despite their condition, relatives alleged that the police did not provide them with any medical assistance on Sunday and Monday. On Monday evening, Jeyaraj and Beniks were shifted to Government Kovilpatti Hospital. Beniks died shortly after arriving there. Jeyaraj died a few hours later in the early hours of Tuesday.

“Beniks had asked me to get him and his father out of the station somehow,” said Manimaran. “Those were his last words to me. I could not move a bail petition as it was a weekend.” 

Anger and action

Their death sparked anger in the district and shops across Thoothukudi were shut on Wednesday in protest. 

Relatives of the duo, accompanied by villagers and political party cadre, staged a protest at the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital (TvMCH) premises, demanding that a case be registered against the two police officers alleged to be behind the violence. When Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate MS Bharathidhasan arrived at the hospital, they requested that the postmortem be performed in the presence of their family doctor. 

South Zone IG Shanmuga Rajeswaran told New Indian Express that the postmortem examination was progressing under the supervision of a Judicial Magistrate as directed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. “Further course of action would be taken depending on the report given by the magistrate,” he said. Even as the Madurai Bench initiated suo motu proceedings into the case, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami issued a statement condoling the deaths. He also announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh each for Jeyaraj and Beniks. “The State government will initiate actions as per the report of the Judicial Magistrate and the orders of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court,” the statement said. The CM also announced provision of a government job to one eligible person in the family as per law.

Dead dreams

Meanwhile, friends and relatives are crushed at the tragic turn of events.

“He was a sober and polite person. He was always willing to help those in need. He worked so hard to get his three sisters married and settled,” Rajaram said.

“He was finally planning to get married by this December.” 

High Court assures justice to victims

MADURAI: Taking suo motu cognisance of the alleged custodial death of two traders at Sathankulam inThoothukudi, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court said that the court would closely monitor the investigation and that justice would be ensured to the victims.

A Division Bench of justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi, which took up the case on Wednesday through video conferencing, said,“Some bad apples here and there may make the public to lose their respect and faith in the entire system. The district administration should make public aware that the court has seized off the matter and would closely monitor the investigation. Justice would be ensured to the victims.”

The Bench directed Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police (SP) to file a status report on the case. The judges also gave directions to authorities concerned to submit a copy of the postmortem examination report and video and also inquest report before the court in a sealed cover. Further directions were given to the district administration to ensure that social distancing norms are not violated during the victims’ funeral. They also stressed that no room should be given for ‘mischief-makers’ to exploit the present situation. The judges further told the administration to provide necessary infrastructure and support to the Kovilpatti judicial magistrate to conduct the inquest without any interference. The magistrate should be allowed to make note of the injuries on the bodies of the victims, they added.

Earlier, Inspector General (IG-South Zone) KP ShanmugaRajeswaran informed the court that two sub-inspectors -- Balakrishnan and Raghuganesh of Sathankulam who were allegedly involved in the incident -- have been suspended and that Inspector Sridhar was removed from the station and placed in waiting list. Departmental proceedings have been initiated against two head constables -- Muthuraj and

Murugan, he added. Thoothukudi SP ArunBalagopalan was also present during the hearing.

The judges orally suggested the Additional Advocate General (AAG) Chellapandian to speak to the State government and Director General of Police (DGP) whether any Standard Operating Procedures can be issued to prevent such incidents in future.


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