Madurai Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras vide order dated 26.06.2020 directed the Judicial Magistrate of Kovilpatti to conduct an enquiry over the twin custodial deaths of a father and son who were arrested after they allegedly had an altercation with the police for keeping their shop open beyond permitted hours during the Covid-19 curfew imposed in the State.

According to reports, Jayaraj and Pennis ran a mobile shop in Sathankulam. On 19.06.2020, when the former shut down his shop around 8:15 pm, cops on patrol duty reportedly pulled him up for running the store beyond the permitted time owing to restrictions due to the lockdown, and a verbal argument followed.

An FIR (Cr.No.312 of 2020) was lodged against the father and son at Sathankulam Police Station on 19.06.2020, for allegedly violating lockdown restrictions and misbehaving with on-duty police personnel. The two were remanded in judicial custody at the Sub Jail, Kovilpatti, on 20.06.2020, following which Pennis died on 22.06.2020 while his father breathed his last, the next day i.e. on 23.06.2020.

The Hon’ble High Court took suo moto cognizance on the said matter by issuing a writ of Mandamus, directing Respondent No. 1, i.e. the Tamil Nadu Police vide order dated 24.06.2020 to submit a report on the death of the deceased duo.

As per the order dated 24.06.2020, Mr. K.Chellapandian, learned Advocate General had submitted that two Sub Inspectors at the Sathankulam Police Station were suspended, while action had been taken against Muthuraj and Murugan, the two Head Constables, who were allegedly associated with the custodial deaths.

The Hon’ble High Court had further ordered for a judicial enquiry, stating that only after which funeral of the deceased could be held while following proper social distancing norms. The post-mortem copy of the deceased was further directed to be submitted to the Judicial Registrar, Madurai Bench.

In the present order dated 26.06.2020, it was submitted that the post-mortem was done at a Government Hospital in Tirunelveli, by a panel of three experts in the presence of the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti and that the post-mortem was also video-graphed.

The Division Bench comprising of Justices P. N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi therefore, ordered the Judicial Magistrate, Kovilpatti to conduct an enquiry over the said custodial death for which he was permitted to do the following things:

  1. Visit the site of the incident and visit the family members of the deceased for the purpose of recording statements;
  2. To conduct a local inspection under Section 310 the Criminal Procedure Code;
  3. Visit the Sathankulam Police Station, take photocopies of all the records relating to the FIR that had been filed against the deceased and record statements of police officers therein;
  4. Use the Sathankulam Court premises as camp office for conducting the enquiry;
  5. Visit the Sub Jail, Kovilpatti and take photocopies of all the records including the admission register and other medical records, duly attested by the Superintendent of the Sub Jail;
  6. Collect the CCTV footages wherever they are available and have them preserved;

The Tuticorin District administration was directed to provide all necessary facilities and protection to the Judicial Magistrate required to conduct the enquiry.

It was also submitted by the Hon’ble High Court that the Standing Operating Procedure set out by the Director General of Police, Chennai for dealing with persons who violate the lock down regulations should not remain on paper alone, but, should also be implemented in spirit as well.

The Coram also informed about the constitution of a high level committee that is to be formed by the State Government comprising the Director General of Police, Home Secretary, Law Secretary and other stakeholders to further strengthen the Standard Operating Procedure and make it more viable for implementation.

The Hon’ble Bench then directed the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Tuticorin, to conduct an enquiry into another matter reported as per which an inmate of the Sub Jail, Kovilpatti, by the name of Raja Singh has also suffered serious injuries and is currently under treatment.

The present matter will now be heard on 30.06.2020.

Order:Judicial Registrar Madurai Vs Murugan