In the wake of the Sathankulam custodial deaths, a PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction so that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister does not hold the portfolio of Home Ministry till the completion of the investigation and trial, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
Advocate A Rajarajan has moved the Supreme Court seeking directions so that Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy refrains from holding the portfolio of Home ministry till the completion of investigation and trial in the case involving the custodial deaths of Jeyaraj and Bennix.
The PIL filed also seeks direction for the CBCID of Tamil Nadu Police to probe the role of Palaniswamy in allegedly safeguarding the accused persons “by misusing his official capacity.”
The petitioner alleges that a free and fair probe and trial in the case is not possible with the Chief Minister heading the Home Ministry and that there is a need for probing his role in allegedly attempting to save the accused persons as well.
The allegations against the Chief Minister are made on the basis of a public statement made by Palaniswamy on June 24 saying that the death of the father son duo took place due to illnesses, thereby ruling out the role of the police or any foul play in the case.
This statement is “highly improper and condemnable”, the petitioner says adding further that the investigation in the case had not even begun when the Chief Minister made the said remarks.
The Chief Minister, as the administrative head, has executive control over the Police which is investigating the case. It is the case of the petitioner that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu ruled out foul play given in order to prevent any attack on the government in light of the Police brutality towards the victims.
The PIL says, “... free and fair investigation is not at all possible under administrative leadership of the 1st respondent (Chief Minister Palaniswamy) who is heading the home department and further the role of 1st respondent in safeguarding the persons accused of 302 IPC by using his official capacity have to be investigated.”
It is also urged in the petition that the Chief Minister should be charged under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for being “actively involved in screening and safeguarding the accused persons.”
It is argued that it appears that the Chief Minister acted in contravention of the Constitutional duties he is required to discharge by virtue of holding the post and “indulged in saving the persons accused of custodial torture which resulted in a twin death.”
A father-son duo of Jeyaraj and Bennix were arrested by the Sathankulam Police on June 19 for an alleged violation of lockdown norms by keeping their shop open till after the permitted hours.
The duo was allegedly beaten up and tortured barbarically by the police officials while in custody and the two succumbed in a hospital shortly after. This led to an outrage and furore across the country highlighting the menace of police brutality in India.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance of the case earlier assuring that it is closely monitoring the case. A judicial inquiry into their deaths, under Section 176, CrPC, is now being conducted by the Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Kovilpatti.