With the CBI charge-sheeting nine Tamil Nadu policemen for murder in the death of a father-son duo after alleged torture in Sathankulam in Tuticorin, the family of the victims on Sunday pleaded for early justice, saying stringent punishment alone will act as a deterrent to others from committing such acts.
On the political front, both the ruling AIADMK and its rival DMK claimed credit for the CBI probe into the case and the agency filing the charge sheet, as they stressed on the need for stringent punishment to the culprits behind the death of R P Jeyaraj and his son J Benniks.
"We need early justice without any delay, stringent action so that nobody (apparently policemen) repeats such a thing," Jeyaraj's daughter Persis told PTI.
Jeyaraj and Benniks were allegedly tortured at the Sathankulam police station in southern Tamil Nadu on June 19 after being taken there for "violating" lockdown norms over business hours of their cell phone shop, and died days later at a hosptial, triggering a massive outrage from political parties and civil society groups across the country.
Initially the state government transferred the case to the Crime Branch CID police, but later opted for the CBI probe amid all-round condemnation of the "police brutality".
The CBI, which took over the case in July, in its charge sheet filed in a Madurai court in Friday, had charged the nine policemen for murder, conspiracy and other offences while also claiming that the father and the son were arrested on a 'fake' charge of violating the lockdown.
Persis said the CBI has filed the charge sheet within the mandatory 90-day period but is not sure if all those involved in the case, including a doctor who reportedly gave a fitness certificate for the two after they were brought to a government hospital from the police station, have been brought under the probe ambit.
If not so, such people should also be probed, she said. "These things should not happen at all. We have lost (father and brother). Only stringent action will ensure the innocent are not targeted," she added.
Persis, who has been given a government job on compassionate grounds after the incident, said the family had expected the charge sheet to be filed earlier.
In its charge sheet, the CBI has named the then Inspector and SHO S Sridhar, Sub Inspectors K Balakrishnan, P Raghuganesh, Head Constables S Murugan, A Samadurai, and Constables M Muthuraja, S Chelladurai, X Thomas Francis and, S Veilumuthu posted at the Sathankulam station.
Special sub-inspector Paul Durai, allegedly involved in the matter, died last month of coronavirus during the probe.
The CBI rushed to file the charge sheet as the three-month custody of the accused is getting over on September 30 making them eligible for bail, agency sources had said on Saturday.
Arch-rivals AIADMK and DMK echoed views of Persis, seeking expedition of the trial and ensuring justice to the family.
AIADMK spokesperson R M Babu Murugavel said that while the government handed over the probe to the CB-CID wing of the state police initially, it had by itself transferred the probe to the CBI which showed it "is keen to ensure justice" and that the culprits do not escape the law.
"The government wants to ensure early justice to the affected. Therefore the probe was handed over to the CBI which has now filed the charge sheet," he told PTI.
The public opinion about a CBI probe was that it would be "dispassionate and quick," and therefore the case was transferred to the premier central agency by the government, he added.
While the accused had a legal right to defend themselves against the accusations, "but if they had done something wrong, the Amma government will not spare them as two lives have gone," he said.
The DMK maintained that its persistent protests were a key reason for the government shifting the probe from the state police to the CBI.
"The government tried to delay the probe but transferred it to the CBI after protests from the DMK and also the court taking cognisance of the matter," party spokesperson A Saravanan said.
"DMK's stand is that the case should be expedited since the charge sheet has been filed and the culprits be punished at the earliest," he added.
According to a CBI spokesperson on Saturday, the agency's investigation revealed that the father-son duo were arrested in the evening of June 19 and allegedly tortured at the Sathankulam Police station by the accusedin the evening as well as in the intervening night, consequent to which both of them succumbed to the injuries and died in the intervening night of June 22-23.