Contrary to the claims made by the police, the post-mortem report of Vignesh, who died in police custody in Chennai, has revealed that the 25-year-old sustained multiple injuries to his body.
Vignesh used to offer horse rides at the city's Marina Beach. He, along with Suresh, a construction worker, was taken into custody by the police on 18 April for allegedly possessing ganja.
The police had claimed that Vignesh had a seizure and died while being taken to the hospital. The family countered their claim, alleging foul play in his death.
At Least 13 External Injuries: Report
The post-mortem exam was conducted by KV Vinod, associate professor at Government Kilpauk Medical College, and Dr A Muralidharan, an assistant professor at the same college.
The report revealed that the patient was brought dead in the afternoon on 19 April. He had several contusions, including a fracture.
He had at least 13 external injuries, including a fracture in the right leg. The injuries include a contusion of size 4x3cm deep on the mid parietal region of the head, a cut on his gluteal region, and bruises above the left eyebrow, left side of the cheek, right forearm, right hand, left and right arms, left shoulder and on his back, stated the report.
The cause of death has not yet been revealed as some reports – the viscera chemical analysis and the histopathological examination report – are still pending. However, the autopsy report states that the injuries seemed to have been caused before his death.
Autopsy Report, CCTV Visuals Refute Claims by Cops
This report is in complete contrast to the claims made by the police who had allegedly told Vignesh's family that he had a small injury and passed away after suffering from a seizure.
The footage has, once again, sparked a debate on custodial torture and given weight to his family's allegations that he died due to police torture.
CCTV visuals of Vignesh being picked up by the police show him running, falling down, and being beaten up by two policemen. This clearly shows he did not have a fracture before the arrest, as mentioned in the report.
The police had also released a picture of Vignesh to prove that he didn't have any external injuries. However, this contradicts the post-mortem report, which states that he had several bruises on his face and head.
Family’s Allegations of Foul Play Reaffirmed
The observations made in the report are, however, in line with the allegations made by Vignesh's family.
They had asserted that the police offered them Rs 1 lakh in a bid to settle the case. However, the family refused to take the money and sought a probe into his death. They alleged that they were not allowed to see his body after the autopsy and received several threats from the police. They also alleged that there were several injuries on his face and body.
After widespread outrage and allegations of discrepancies in the inquiry process, the probe into his death was transferred to the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) on 22 April. The state government, too, announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh to Vignesh's family.
If Vignesh Died in Police Custody, It Is Murder: SC/ST Commission
These revelations come on the same day that Arun Halder, the vice-chairman of the SC/ST commission, made some explosive claims against the high-handedness of the cops in the case.
Halder claimed that the police tried to suppress the fact that Vignesh was from the SC community. He further informed that the commission has asked to add a charge under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
"If he died in custody, you would have to call it murder," he said.
He also questioned why only three officials, a police sub-inspector, a constable, and a home guard personnel, were suspended so far.
"They (police) told us that he had previous cases against him. So what? It doesn't give them the right to assault them," the SC/ST commission chief added.
Halder claimed that the police would obviously try to cover up the crime and protect themselves. But the government should send out a message that they stand for justice. "This is not the police from British time. Things have changed," he said.