Tension prevailed near the Esplanade police station on Saturday morning, following the death of a 22-year-old disabled youth allegedly due to custodial torture. While the police said he had a history of seizures that led to his death, his relatives charged the police with torture.
“He was picked up from the house on Thursday by the police. The police promised us they would let him go after the enquiry but they never released him. We received information that he was dead in the hospital. We strongly suspect that he died only because of torture,” said A.S. Mani, an auto-driver and a relative.
It all started with a complaint from Sabir Padmavala who lives on the fourth floor of the building where Jayakumar and his friends — Ajithkumar and Vignesh — were employed in a hardware store. Last month, Mr. Padmavala complained that 32 sovereigns of jewellery, ₹2 lakh in cash and other valuables were missing from his house.
“On suspicion, we picked up the trio for enquiry and interrogated them at the station. Fingerprints of Jayakumar and the prints lifted from the scene of the break-in matched. The trio were also involved in similar offences elsewhere. During our sustained interrogation, we got information that helped us recover jewellery that was stolen from other places,” said a senior police officer.
The three were then asked to stay on for further enquiries.
On Friday at 10.30 p.m., Jayakumar was given food, after which he fainted, as he had a history of seizures. He was rushed to a private hospital, from where he was taken to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. He died early Saturday.
On hearing news of his death, his relatives besieged the police station on Saturday. Ramadevi, a relative, said, “They picked up the boy two days ago on the pretext of enquiry. He never had any previous case against him. On Friday evening when we saw him, the police said they would remand him. Instead, they informed us he was dead, the next morning.”
Additional Commissioner of Police R. Dhinakaran and other officials held an enquiry with officials at the police station. Mr. Dhinakaran said, “We have placed the police inspector who enquired him under suspension. An enquiry by the judicial magistrate is on.”
The body of the deceased was handed over to the family after conducting post-mortem. The police have beefed up security around the police station and the hospital.
T.M.N. Deepak, president of the December 3 movement, said: “I have serious reservations about the conduct of the police officials throughout the investigation. One of the officers who spoke to me referred to the incident as a mistake. The life of a person with disablity has been taken, and it cannot be termed a mistake. We want a case to be booked against the erring personnel and an impartial investigation to be carried out.”
“The disabled person was taken to the police station and tortured under the name of enquiry against the principles of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. The Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities should take up the matter suo motu cognisance as per law,” said C. Govindha Krishnan, founder-president, Nethrodaya.