'Want Perpetrators Punished': Mother of TN Teen Who Died in Juvenile Home

The TN CM announced Rs 10 lakh solatium to the family of deceased P Gokul Sri.

Hindi Female

On 31 December 2022, a 17-year-old boy named P Gokul Sri reportedly died under mysterious circumstances at a juvenile home in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu. The mother of the teenager, Priya Palani, alleged that her son was killed while under police custody.

It has been over 50 days since her son died. However, the mother's fight for justice still continues. She has requested a fair probe into his death and has made an earnest demand that the accused, who were allegedly involved in killing her son, be brought to justice.

On 6 February, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh and a house at Annai Anjugam Nagar to the family of Sri, who was allegedly beaten to death by the staff members of the juvenile reform home.

While it has been over a week since the announcement of the compensation, which has been widely publicised, and the government widely praised for its prompt action, Sri's mother denies any direct official communication from the government regarding the solatium.


How Did Gokul Sri Die?

Sri was taken into custody by Tambaram Railway Police on 29 December 2022, after he allegedly stole a battery belonging to the railway department. As he was a minor, he was lodged at a juvenile correction facility on 30 December.

However, just a day later, on 31 December, Sri's mother said that she received a call from the juvenile reform centre informing her that her son was unwell and that he had been admitted to the Chengalpattu Government Hospital. She received another call minutes later, as she was about to board a bus to the hospital, informing her that her son had died.

She told The Quint that she was initially not allowed to see her son’s body and that only a day later, on 1 January 2023, after incessant requests, she was allowed into the mortuary, where she was shocked to see bruises on her son's body.

"The officials claimed that he fainted and hurt himself as he fell down. However, it didn’t look like it. The abrasions on his nose and right wrist seemed like razor cuts. His lip was split open, and his legs were broken. He also had injuries to his upper torso. How could one have such severe injuries by falling down?"
Gokul Sri's mother, Priya Palani

A postmortem was conducted on 3 January and the autopsy report stated that the boy was subjected to a physical attack and that he suffered a custodial death.

Palani alleged that District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Sivakumar forced her to sign a blank sheet of paper and not proceed with the complaint. However, Palani, with the help of a local journalist who helped her, filed a complaint at the district collector’s office. Further, she said that People's Watch, an NGO seeking justice for victims of custodial torture, has been helping her take legal action against the accused in the juvenile home.

"While the rest of the world was celebrating the New Year, I was living a nightmare because I had lost my dearest son, my first child, who was very special."
Gokul Sri's mother, Priya Palani

Justice Comes Calling

Based on Priya Palani's complaint, Chengalpattu Judicial Magistrate R Reena conducted an inquiry into the matter, following which the Chengalpattu police arrested the six accused staff under Indian Penal Code Section 302 for murder charges on 14 January.

The accused were identified as Superintendent of Child Welfare Mohan (30), Chandrababu (39), Anast Raj (29), Vijayakumar (30), Vidyasagar (33), and Saranraj (36).

On 3 February, IAS officer Valarmathi was transferred to Ranipet district, as collector, following allegations of negligence and inaction in Sri's custodial murder case.

"I am not seeking financial compensation for my son's death. That will not bring back my son. I want justice that lets my son rest in peace", says Palani.

Having lost her child, the mother urged the state government to set up a committee to reform juvenile homes and also host regular medical checkups to support the physical and mental well being of the kids in prison.

"Another innocent child should not lose their life due to custodial torture", the mother said.

She also called for strict action against the perpetrators who allegedly tried to cover up the murder and demanded that, apart from those who allegedly killed her son, everyone who was involved should also be arrested.

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Topics:  Tamil Nadu   Death   South India 

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