Tuticorin custodial deaths: Witness intimidated, CCTV footage erased, reveals magistrate

A three-page inquiry report submitted to the Madras High Court has revealed that the cops were lax in their response and even verbally abused the Magistrate while he was at the police station for the investigation into the case. 

Tuticorin custodial deaths: Witness intimidated, CCTV footage erased, reveals magistrate
PTI photo

Chennai: Despite the widespread outrage over the death of P Jayaraj and J Fennix in police custody, the police officials at the Sathankulam station refused to cooperate with the magistrate who had gone there for investigation. A three-page inquiry report submitted to the Madras High Court has revealed that the cops were lax in their response and even verbally abused the Magistrate while he was at the police station for the investigation into the case. 

During his visit to the Sathankulam police station on June 28, Kovilpatti Magistrate MS Bharathidasan, that his presence was not acknowledged or welcome from the very time he entered the station with his staff. The station visit, along with other staff was meant to record the statements of police officers and gather crucial evidence.

"ADSP D Kumar and DSP Prathapan, who were at the police station, failed to salute or acknowledge my presence. D Kumar, exhibited a muscle-flexing kind of body language and when asked for case-related documents, he disrespectfully addressed the other cops and asked them to bring it” read the report. 

The report added that there was a female cop in the station who is an eyewitness in this case. But, she divulged the information only after initially expressing serious apprehension and reluctance. 

The female cop has reveled that the father-son duo was beaten throughout the night and added that the batons and tables in the station had blood stains on them. She also urged the magistrate to confiscate these objects before the evidence is destroyed. 

The Magistrate’s report states that the lady cop feared about the repercussions and backlash she would have to face from her colleagues for testifying in this case. She had also requested the Magistrate to not reveal her identity or that she had given statements about the June 19 incident. On the order of the magistrate, the other cops present there were taken outside the station, in order to prevent them from listening to her statements. However, even outside the station, the cops created a ruckus and attempted to disrupt the process of the Magistrate taking statements from other officials present inside the station. 

After the lady cop's statement, when the Magistrate demanded the cops to produce the batons before him, the policemen didn’t cooperate. They initially behaved as though they didn’t hear the orders and only handed them over after the Magistrate insisted, the report further stated. 

One policeman named Maharajan spoke to the Magistrate in an insulting manner and told him, "You cant do anything." Another constable at the police station jumped over a wall and escaped when asked to handover his sticks as evidence.

"A policeman named Maharajan said, "You can't do anything to us" in an insulting manner. He also said that his lathi was in his hometown and later said that it was in the police quarters. He walked around in all directions without any regard to the investigation and said he didn’t have a lathi at all," the report stated. 

The report also claimed that another cop jumped the over the compound wall and escaped when asked to produce his lathi. 

Meanwhile, it was found out that security CCTV footage has been erased at the Sathankulam police station where the custodial deaths incident took place. "Despite the hard disk having 1TB storage, the settings were done in a such a manner that the daily files would get auto-deleted. There was no data of any recording since June 19 and it was all erased," said the Magistrate. 

He also confiscated the system's hard disk as it would contain important evidence.

The Magistrate in his report stated that policemen in the station were filming videos and threatening the court staff when he was living the station after completing his investigation. Later, he submitted details of the inquiry via telephone to the District Magistrate.