HC initiates contempt proceedings against 3 policemen in Sattankulam
Collector directed to depute Revenue officials to station
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.
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.