HC ini­ti­ates con­tempt pro­ceed­ings against 3 po­lice­men in Sat­tanku­lam

Col­lec­tor di­rected to de­pute Rev­enue of­fi­cials to sta­tion

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - B. Ti­lak Chan­dar

Tak­ing a se­ri­ous view of po­lice per­son­nel at­tached to the Sat­tanku­lam sta­tion not co­op­er­at­ing with the Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, Kovil­patti, in con­nec­tion with the in­quiry into the al­leged cus­to­dial tor­ture and deaths of traders P. Ja­yaraj and J. Benicks, the Madu­rai Bench of the Madras High Court on Mon­day ini­ti­ated suo motu crim­i­nal con­tempt pro­ceed­ings against two se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers and a con­sta­ble.

Separately, in view of the non-co­op­er­a­tion by the po­lice dur­ing the hear­ing of the case, the court also di­rected the Thoothukud­i Col­lec­tor to de­pute Rev­enue De­part­ment of­fi­cials to take con­trol of the Sat­tanku­lam po­lice sta­tion for the pur­pose of pre­serv­ing clue ma­te­ri­als in the case.

Tak­ing cog­ni­sance of the e-mail re­ceived from the Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, a Di­vi­sion Bench of Jus­tices P.N. Prakash and B. Pu­gal­endhi ini­ti­ated suo motu crim­i­nal con­tempt pro­ceed­ings against Ad­di­tional Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice D. Ku­mar, Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice C. Pratha­pan and po­lice con­sta­ble Ma­hara­jan, and di­rected them to ap­pear be­fore it on Tues­day. It also rec­om­mended their trans­fers. “We are of the view that un­less the State gov­ern­ment in­ter­venes im­me­di­ately to trans­fer the Ad­di­tional Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice, the Deputy

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice and other po­lice­men in Sat­tanku­lam po­lice sta­tion, it will be very dif­fi­cult for [con­duct­ing] a free and fair in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in­quiry,” the court ob­served.

The po­lice­men at the Sat­tanku­lam sta­tion had not pro­vided the records sought by the Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate. Con­sta­ble Ma­hara­jan al­legedly made a dis­parag­ing re­mark to the mag­is­trate in Tamil, im­ply­ing that the lat­ter “can­not do any­thing”.

The court ob­served that the district po­lice ad­min­is­tra­tion was do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pre­vent the mag­is­trate from go­ing ahead with the in­quiry.

The Prin­ci­pal District Judge, Thoothukud­i, who is closely mon­i­tor­ing the progress of the case, had also in­formed the court about the non­co­op­er­a­tion by the po­lice.

The court was in­formed that the Ad­di­tional SP and the DSP had made them­selves avail­able at the po­lice sta­tion at the time of the in­quiry, and in their very pres­ence, other po­lice­men were tak­ing videos of the mag­is­te­rial pro­ceed­ings.

The court di­rected Ad­di­tional Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral K. Chel­la­pan­dian to ap­pear in per­son, and the Range Deputy In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice and the Thoothukud­i Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice to ac­com­pany the Ad­di­tional Ad­vo­cate Gen­eral on Tues­day.

Fur­ther, the court di­rected the As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor of the Mo­bile Foren­sic Science Lab­o­ra­tory, Thoothukud­i, to im­me­di­ately go to the Sat­tanku­lam po­lice sta­tion to col­lect the clue ma­te­ri­als and as­sist the Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, Kovil­patti. If nec­es­sary, a team of foren­sic science ex­perts from the Re­gional Foren­sic Science Lab­o­ra­tory, Tirunelvel­i, may also be req­ui­si­tioned.

When Mr. Chel­la­pan­dian sub­mit­ted the State's gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to trans­fer the case to the CBI, the court made it clear that to trans­fer or not to trans­fer the case to the CBI was a pol­icy de­ci­sion of the gov­ern­ment, and such a trans­fer was gov­erned by the pro­vi­sions of the Delhi Spe­cial Po­lice Es­tab­lish­ment Act, 1946. How­ever, with cer­tain pro­ce­dural for­mal­i­ties re­main­ing, the court passed a few di­rec­tions.

The Regis­trar Ju­di­cial of the High Court Bench was di­rected to take pho­to­copies of the pre­lim­i­nary post­mortem cer­tifi­cates, cer­tify them and keep them in safe cus­tody.

The orig­i­nals shall be handed over to the Chief Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate who, in turn, shall hand over the same to the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer of the CBI.

Re­ports awaited

The post-mortem doc­tors were await­ing the chem­i­cal anal­y­sis, histopatho­log­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion and mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion re­ports. The dean of the Tirunelvel­i Med­i­cal Col­lege Hos­pi­tal shall send a copy of the fi­nal opin­ion to the Chief Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, who shall hand over the same to the CBI. A copy shall be sent to the court in a sealed cover, the HC said.

The Di­rec­tor of the Tamil Nadu Foren­sic Sciences Lab­o­ra­tory, Chennai, was di­rected to give top pri­or­ity to the ex­am­i­na­tion of the ma­te­ri­als sent by the post­mortem doc­tors. The Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate of Kovil­patti shall hand over a copy of his re­port to the court and the orig­i­nal to the CBI. The case diaries shall also be handed over to the CBI, the court said.

Re­spond­ing to a query on the im­por­tance of ad­dress­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal needs of po­lice per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies, the State gov­ern­ment in­formed the court that a scheme called the Po­lice Well­be­ing Pro­gramme was launched in col­lab­o­ra­tion with NIMHANS, Bengaluru, and a sum of ₹10 crore was al­lo­cated for it.

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