The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday announced the transfer and promotion of 39 police officers in the state amid continuing outrage over the alleged custodial deaths of a father-son duo in Tuticorin, reported PTI. After the rejig, Tuticorin has a new police chief as Arun Balagopalan has been replaced by S Jeyakumar.
Among those transferred are Assistant Superintendent of Police D Kumar and Deputy Superintendent of Police C Prathaban – both facing contempt charges for trying to block investigations into the deaths of Jayaraj and his son Bennix in Sathankulam. Prathaban has been moved to the anti-land grabbing special cell and Kumar will be posted at the Prohibition Enforcement Wing, according to NDTV. However, currently they are on “compulsory wait” as the Madras High Court has initiated contempt proceedings.
The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix have triggered massive outrage across the country and renewed the debate about police brutality. The police took them into custody on June 19 for interrogation, as they had kept their mobile accessories shop open during the coronavirus lockdown in Thoothukudi. A case was filed against them for not following the curfew under lockdown, and they were sent to custody.
On June 22, Bennix complained of breathing problems and was admitted to a local government-run hospital. He died around 9 pm. Jayaraj, who was also hospitalised due to an illness, died the next day. Their family alleged that they were tortured in police custody.
The Madras High Court on Tuesday observed that there was ample evidence to charge the policemen involved in the custodial deaths with murder. The court said postmortem reports of the two men showed that they had suffered grievous injuries. Meanwhile, the Kovilpatti judicial magistrate told the court that CCTV footage from June 19 at the Sathankulam police station was deliberately erased, the day Jayraj and Bennix were arrested.
However, the state government said most of the transfers were routine and expected. “These are routine transfers and promotions long overdue,” an unidentified officer told NDTV. “Many officers have retired too. These transfers aren’t from the Tuticorin range at all.”
After the shake-up, four cities in Tamil Nadu have new police chiefs. Chennai’s new police commissioner is Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal. Prem Anand Sinha is the new police chief of Madurai, J Loganathan has been posted in Tiruchirapalli and G Karthikeyan is the new police commissioner of Tirupur.