Reporter/ Producer: Smitha TK
Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
Tamil Nadu reported two alleged custodial deaths in 48 hours this June, prompting the Director General of Police (DGP) to issue Standard operating procedures (SOP) on how to handle an accused in police custody.
This comes just a month after Chief Minister MK Stalin told the Legislative Assembly that there will be no more custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu and “custodial deaths cannot be justified whichever party is in power.”
Two Recent Cases of Custodial Deaths
Rajasekar, 33 was taken into police custody on 11 June by the Kodungaiyur police in connection with a theft case.
He fell ill while at the station and the police took him to a nearby hospital, from where he was referred to Government Stanley Hospital. Rajasekar purportedly collapsed in the vehicle on the way to Stanley Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
“They hit him in his belly and chest with their boots. His face has ruptured in many places. They broke his leg and fingers,” alleged Usharani, his mother.
However, police claim that he died due to low blood pressure. Director General of Police C Sylendra Babu ordered the state CB-CID to investigate the death.
The post-mortem report stated that there were multiple injuries on his body caused about 18-24 hours prior to his death. The report further mentioned that the injuries (individually or collectively) were not sufficient to cause death.
Five police personnel including an inspector, sub-inspector, two constables and a Grade-I police constable attached to the Kodungaiyur police station were suspended.
Just a day later, on 14 June, 44-year-old Siva Subramanian died in police custody.
The resident of Nagapattinam was working for a cycle company. He had accompanied his relative who had borrowed Rs 95,000 from A Venkatesh. An argument followed and it ended up in a fist fight and Venkatesh was hospitalised.
Based on his complaint, Subramanian was arrested. Police claim that Subramanian survived from epilepsy and had an episode of seizure while in custody. He was then taken to Nagapattinam government hospital but soon passed away.
However, the family has alleged that it was a custodial murder.
“When he told he was booked in a case, I told him not to worry as he had not done anything wrong. When I went to meet the police and requested that I be allowed to see him, they denied. After sometime, a police officer came and asked me if I was Siva Subramanian’s mother and I said yes. And he informed that my son was no more,” said Mallika, his mother.
G Jawahar, Nagapattinam Superintendent of Police clarified to The Quint, “As per the norms, a magistrate headed inquiry has been initiated. After the post mortem, the doctor said that there were no visible signs of injury. CCTV footage showed that he was sitting on the chair and cooperating with the interrogation and the police were not seen using force.”
Need to Put an End to ‘Police Madness': Madras High Court
According to the National Crime Records Bureau between 2001 and 2018 over 108 custodial deaths were recorded in Tamil Nadu even as no policemen were convicted for murder.
Data shows that from 2019-2020, at least 12 died in police custody and 57 in judicial custody.
The Madras High Court observed that to put an end to “police madness,” a police complaints authority headed by retired judges must be set up.
Director General of Police C Sylendra Babu has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the police to follow while handling accused persons during investigation in crimes.
The DGP asked the police officers to avoid beating accused persons to solve a crime or get confession, and directed that functional closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras be installed round the clock at all police stations.
He warned the police against getting health certificates without proper checkups. The police need to check prisoners for medical conditions like seizures. In case they are found to be suffering from such conditions, prisoners should be given additional treatment.