‘You Can’t Do Anything’: Cop During Probe Into TN Police Brutality
A police officer jumped the station boundary & escaped when the magistrate asked him to produce his lathi.
A three-page report, submitted by Kovilpatti Magistrate MS Bharathidasan to the Registrar of the Madras High Court, has revealed shocking details of the death of father-son duo Jayaraj and Bennix.
A woman police officer is the only person from the Sathankulam station who was willing to state what happened on the night of June 19 and has proven to be an important eyewitness in the case.
The magistrate visited the station on June 28, to record the statements of the police officers present there and to gather evidence in the alleged custodial deaths case.
In the report, which TNM has accessed, the magistrate states that the female officer was extremely scared to divulge details of what took place in the Sathankulam police station.
The witness requested the magistrate to not reveal her identity or even that she was giving any statements about the incidents on June 19. Her fear was so acute that the officer told the magistrate that she had concerns over her colleagues standing outside the room, spying on what she had to tell him.
Following this, the magistrate placed two court employees outside the room to protect her.
In her statement, the woman officer told the magistrate that Jayaraj and Bennix were beaten through the night of June 19 and that lathis and tables had blood stains on them.
She further stated that the police were trying to destroy the blood-stained evidence and that these objects should be taken by the magistrate immediately.
‘You can’t do anything’
Upon taking a print of her statement on paper, the officer said she will sign it after some time and went to the lower floor of the station from the upper floor. When the Magistrate was leaving, he asked the head officer to sign the document of her statement, but she resisted. The Magistrate then assured her that she will be protected and kept safe, following which she agreed to sign the paper.
Despite his efforts to create a safe atmosphere for the witness, other police officers in the station were intimidating.
The magistrate says that even after placing court employees outside the room, the police officers from the station gathered under a neem tree on the left side of the station and heckled the employees, creating a disruptive environment and making the process of recording statements difficult.
The Magistrate notes that the female officer appeared to be scared and under the impression that giving her statement would lead to her receiving threats from the police officers. Since she appeared anxious, the Magistrate adds, sufficient time was given for her to calm down.
Upon hearing the witness’ revelations, the magistrate then asked the relevant officers to produce their lathis before him. Initially, the police behaved like they couldn’t hear the magistrate and later, when he insisted, they produced their lathis to him.
“A police officer named Maharaja then said, ‘You can’t do anything’, in a way that I could hear and in an insulting manner. This created an uneasy situation there,” says the magistrate in his submission.
“When I asked for his lathi he initially said that it was in his hometown, then he said it was in the police quarters. Then he kept walking in all directions, spoke to me disrespectfully and said he does not have a lathi at all,” the magistrate adds.Magistrate MS Bharathidasan’s Letter to Registrar of the Madras High Court
Another police officer when asked to produce his lathi, jumped over the compound and escaped from the police station.
CCTV Drive Auto-Erased on Daily Basis
In order to obtain the CCTV footage in connection to the case, a systems officer from the district court was brought to the station. Based on the order of the Collector and district officials a local photographer and a CCTV expert were also brought to the station.
“The CCTV hard disc was examined in the presence of the systems officer and it was found that even though the disc had enough storage space (1 TB), it was set in such a manner that data was auto-erased on a daily basis.”Magistrate MS Bharathidasan’s Letter to Registrar of the Madras High Court
“There was no video data of any incidence since June 19. No records were found and everything was erased,” he adds.
The Magistrate then took the hard disc under his control as it could serve as important evidence.
In his submission, Kovilpatti Magistrate MS Bharathidasan, clearly states that the police present in the station were attempting to intimidate him and create an atmosphere of fear.
When the magistrate went to the station ADSP D Kumar and DSP Prathapan were present at the venue. The magistrate says they both failed to acknowledge his presence or even salute him.
“D Kumar was exhibiting body language to show his physical strength and did not seem to behave like the court was closely examining this case,” says the Magistrate.
“When asked for documents and evidence in connection to the case, D Kumar did not carry this out correctly and disrespectfully addressed the station’s policemen and asked them to bring it.”Magistrate MS Bharathidasan’s Letter to Registrar of the Madras High Court
The magistrate further adds that when the inquiry began at 1pm, he asked the station writer to bring him files and reports in connection to the case, and that this process was delayed.
Even when he was leaving, the magistrate says policemen in the station were taking videos and threatening the court officers. The magistrate thus left the station after 15 hours of inquiry and did not stay overnight in Sathankulam. Instead he went to a government guest house in Tiruchendur.
He then submitted details of the inquiry over telephone to the District Magistrate.
(This story was originally published in TNM and has been republished with permission.)
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