The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday was informed by the State government that a high-level committee comprising the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and the Law Secretary would convene a meeting with regard to implementing Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed by police personnel, in view of the custodial deaths of two traders, P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks, at Sattankulam in Thoothukudi district.
During the course of the hearing of the suo motu proceedings initiated by the court, a Division Bench of Justices P.N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi was informed that the Director General of Police had met the Chief Secretary and a circular was issued recently. Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian submitted that a comprehensive direction would be issued soon.
The State submitted that the post mortem was conducted and the report would be submitted to the court. Due to the lockdown imposed in Madurai, the report could not be sent to the court. Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan submitted a status report and said the situation had returned to normal in Sattankulam and there were no untoward incidents.
Taking into account the submissions made, the judges observed that COVID-19 pandemic situation had brought hardship to everyone. People were depressed and counselling was required. Even the police were functioning under stress. Counselling for police personnel and their families could alleviate stress, the court said, and suggested that yoga as an option could be explored.
After it was said that judicial officers and court staff in Satthankulam were facing a threat, the court directed the SP to ensure adequate protection for them. It was said that a clerk was assaulted. The SP informed the court that police were already deployed and adequate security was provided. The accused would be apprehended, he said.
The court reiterated that it was closely monitoring the case and the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Thoothukudi, was also briefing the judges on the progress. Initially there was resentment in receiving the bodies, but after persuasion by the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti, who is conducting the inquest, the bodies were received.
The judges suggested that the JM could visit the family members and conduct the inquest. The JM could visit the police station, Kovilpatti sub-jail and the place of the occurrence of the incident and collect details, reports and take photographs.
The CCTV footages, medical records/reports should shall be collected for the purpose and till further orders the case should be dealt with by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kovilpatti. Taking note of the fact that an accused in another case, S. Raja Singh, was found in the sub-jail with multiple injuries, the court directed the Chief Judicial Magistrate to conduct an inquiry and file a report. The case was adjourned till June 30 for further hearing.
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