The Tamil Nadu Government’s move in handing over the probe of the father-son death in judicial custody in Sathankulam to the CBI is wrought with many doubts of it being a delay tactic and would naturally result in justice denied.
The moment the State made its intent clear that it has decided to hand over the probe to CBI, social media was entrenched with messages questioning the need for a CBI probe, when prima facie it was a clear-cut case of police high-handedness and that it could be solved within days.
Another section wondered about the need for the CBI, when the Madras High Court is monitoring the magisterial enquiry, which is underway. Even Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), president, Kamal Haasan was part of the bandwagon raising similar doubts citing the ineffective CBI probe in the Thoothukudi firing incident and Gutkha scam.
But legal experts cite several rulings by the Supreme Court insisting on independent probes while dealing with custodial and encounter deaths by the police.
In fact, the Supreme court in RS Sodhi Vs State of UP relating to encounter by the police in 1991, said, “We think that since the accusations are directed against the local police personnel, it would be desirable to entrust the investigation to an independent agency like the CBI so that all concerned, including the relatives of the deceased, may feel assured, and that would lend the final outcome of the investigation credibility.”
In fact, even as the High court clarified to the State that it does not require its permission to hand over the case to the CBI, allegations of the local police refusing to cooperate with the magisterial probe came forth.
This led to the court directing the district collector to take over the police station lest some evidence is destroyed and reportedly initiated suo motu criminal contempt proceedings against certain police personnel for preventing Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate from conducting judicial inquiry at Sathankulam Police station.
However, senior advocate M Radhakrishnan clarified that the probe by the Judicial Magistrate (JM) is as good as a statement recorded under Section 163 of CrPc, which relates to recording witnesses, and the investigation either by the CBI or any agency doesn’t necessarily have to wait until this process ends.
He said the probe by the JM would only be an exercise in assisting the investigation. Also, pointing out that the JM’s report is of no relevance since if the JM takes a view that the police personnel were involved in the death of the two traders, the investigative officer (IO) either from the police or the CBI can overrule the JM’s view.
“But since it’s a peculiar case wherein a judicial magistrate, a government doctor, a superintendent of prison and all those part of the Sathankulam police station have a role in the death of the father-son duo, it’s imperative that the CBI constitutes a Special Investigation team (SIT) to undertake the investigation and that the same has to be monitored by the high court,” advocate Radhakrishnan stressed while noting that this alone could pave the way for swift justice in the case.