The Madras High Court today expressed that the CBI investigation into the Sathankulam
custodial deaths appeared to be moving in the right direction, after perusing the Central
agency’s first status report (Registrar General (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High
Court v. State of Tamil Nadu and ors).
Pursuant to the Court’s directions in the last hearing, the Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI) had filed its report on the status of its investigation in a sealed cover. The Bench of
Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam today observed that much progress has
been made in the case investigation by the CBI, orally observing that “Prima facie, it appears
that investigation is proceeding on the right lines. “While taking the report on its file, the
Court observed that more time may be required for the investigation as the CBI is in the
process of carrying out scientific collection and analysis of evidence. Notably, the Bench also
took note that the majority of the CBI officers have been affected by COVID-19.
The Court added that it cannot comment further on the status report since it is an ongoing
investigation. Therefore, the Bench adjourned the matter to September 7 and directed the CBI to file a further status report in sealed cover by then. Various impleadment applications were also mentioned today before the Court, including one by the widow of Jayaraj, who is also the mother of Bennix – the two persons who died while in the custody of the Sathankulam police.
Other impleadment pleas filed included those by NGO, People’s Watch, L Vasuki and KS
Arjunan. The respondents before the Court today informed the Court that they do not have
any objections to the Court taking up the impleadment pleas.The Court also took on record
the submission by the Additional Advocate General that a status report on the CB-CID
investigation into allegations concerning the custodial torture of one, S Raja Singh will be
filed in a sealed cover. Singh is alleged to have been tortured while in police custody by two
of the police officers accused in the Sathankulam custodial deaths case, i.e. Sis Ragu Ganesh and Balakrishnan.The Sathankulam custodial deaths case involves allegations of police brutality, a mechanical remand by the judicial magistrate and inadequate medical treatment leading to the death of Jayaraj and Bennix while in police custody.
During the hearing today, a counsel mentioned that there were five connected cases involving the accused arraigned in the Sathankulam case, where the accused are afraid to go to the police station. The counsel, therefore, urged the Court to direct that these accused persons be interrogated in their residence instead. The Bench, however, pointed out that if any such general order is passed, it is likely to be abused by other accused persons as well. The Court, therefore, declined to accede to the request, orally observing that, “Once we pass an order, it will be treated as a precedent. Every accused will say ‘come to my residence’ and investigate.... We will consider on a case to case basis.”