‘Custodial torture’: Delay in handing over body irks kin in Tamil Nadu

On May 23, district collector issued a letter to Anju, Raja’s wife, asking if she intends to pursue further legal action after getting the postmortem results.
Revenue department officials said the decision on the release of the body is pending with district collector C Palani.
Revenue department officials said the decision on the release of the body is pending with district collector C Palani. EXPRESS ILLUSTRATION

VILLUPURAM: The delay in handing over the body of alleged custodial torture victim K Raja (44) after re-postmortem has irked his relatives, and they have alleged negligence from the part of the district administration.

Raja, a resident of GRP Street, the died on April 10 under suspicious circumstances after being questioned at the Villupuram taluk police station. Following a high court order, Raja’s body was exhumed on May 22 and taken to Mundiyambakkam government medical college hospital where doctors from Madurai and Madras Government Medical Colleges conducted a re-postmortem examination that lasted approximately six hours.

Revenue department officials said the decision on the release of the body is pending with district collector C Palani. The delay has been met with severe criticism, as it is typically the responsibility of the medical college dean to release the body after postmortem.

On May 23, district collector issued a letter to Anju, Raja’s wife, asking if she intends to pursue further legal action after getting the postmortem results. The letter has been dubbed as an interference with Anju’s legal rights, with human rights activists emphasising seeking justice is a fundamental right.

Speaking to TNIE, P V Ramesh, a human rights activist said, “Anju responded to the collector’s letter, but as of now, Raja’s body has still not been released. The continued delay has been viewed as a re-victimisation of the bereaved family, violating their right to a dignified closure. The high court had previously mandated the re-postmortem and had instructed adherence to the judgment in ‘Santhosh vs Madurai District Collector’ case. Despite this, the Villupuram collector’s actions appear to contravene the court order.”

In his reponse Palani told TNIE, “It is the same Santhosh vs Madurai Collector case judgment that indicates that the body can be handed over to the family only after knowing if they would pursue the court case thereafter or not. We have filed a petition at the district court, and it will be heard on Monday. Based on it, the body will be handed over.”

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