SC throws out bail application of two police officers accused in Sathankulam father-son custodial deaths

THE Supreme Court Tuesday rejected the bail applications filed by two police officers accused in the custodial death of trader P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks last year.

A bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari said bail to S Sridhar and P Raghu Ganesh could not be granted at this stage given the totality of the facts and circumstances involved.

The court also dismissed the petition filed by Ganesh against a Madras High Court order directing that the trial be completed within six months.

Sridhar, the Station House Officer (SHO) at Police Station Sathankulam in Tamil Nadu, allegedly brought Jayaraj to the police station and instigated the other accused police officials to beat the father and son. Ganesh was a Sub-Inspector posted at the same police station. There are a total of nine accused in the case facing murder charges.

Senior advocates Nagamuthu and Anjanai Prakash appeared for Sridhar and Ganesh respectively.

Nagamuthu said the duo did not die due to the injury at the police station but due to heart ailments. Prakash said Ganesh was not even present at the police station at the relevant time.

Opposing the bail plea, ASG KM Natarajan, for the CBI, said the FSL report clearly established that the duo died due to blunt injuries.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the wife of the deceased Jayaraj, said two women police constables who had testified against the accused persons are yet to be examined by the trial court, and hence there is a likelihood that if bail is granted to the accused, the trial may collapse.

Jaising said the investigations had revealed that as per the accused Call Detail Records (CDRs,) the location of all the accused police officials of Police Station Sathankulam were in the police station within the same tower covering the Sathankulam Police Station and thus the contention that Ganesh was not present at the scene did not hold water.

The custodial death of the father and son had sparked outrage in Tamil Nadu leading the state government to transfer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

In its charge-sheet against the nine policemen, the CBI said trader P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks were subjected to brutal torture by the policemen, knowing full well that it was sufficient to cause their death.

The investigation revealed that as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused policemen, Jayaraj was picked up from his shop on June 19, 2020 at 7.30 p.m. and lodged at the police station. Benicks, the son, rushed to the station to enquire about the arrest and objected to his father being beaten up. An altercation followed; the two were wrongfully confined at the police station and beaten up in order to teach them a lesson on how to behave with the police. The torture continued for several hours throughout the night, the CBI said.

The Madras High Court, having taken cognisance of the case on the petition filed by the wife of the deceased, had initially ordered a video-graphed postmortem of the deceased as well as a magisterial inquiry. The court has since been monitoring the investigation.