‘Savukku’ Shankar’s arrest in Tamil Nadu sparks debate on free speech and whistleblower rights

Savukku Shankar’s mother has accused the police of torturing him in jail. He had recently passed damning remarks on conduct of women police.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published May 08, 2024 | 4:10 PMUpdatedMay 08, 2024 | 7:34 PM

Goondas Act on YouTuber 'Savukku' Shankar

‘Savukku’ Shankar has been a familiar face in Tamil social media for over a decade for his criticism of the government and government policies.

His arrest on 4 May and the subsequent allegations of custodial torture have put the DMK government in a spot when it comes to freedom of speech and whistleblowers especially when it comes to corruption in the government.

He was arrested after the Cybercrime Wing of the Coimbatore police acted on allegations of derogatory remarks against women police personnel made during a recent YouTube interview.

After his arrest, his mother A Kamala moved the Madras High Court alleging that Shankar was facing custodial torture. The high court on Wednesday, 8 May, directed the Coimbatore District Legal Services Authority to submit a report on his health condition.

Shankar is known for his commentaries on political matters along with his contentious history with the state government.

He was arrested by a Sub-Inspector in the Crime Branch Wing after the Coimbatore police lodged a complaint.

Also Read: Will continue to expose DMK, says popular YouTuber Savukku Shankar

Charges against Shankar

He faces a litany of charges, including those under Sections 294(b), 509, and 353 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Additionally, he is accused under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

En route from Theni where he was picked up to Coimbatore, the vehicle carrying Shankar and police constables was involved in an accident near Dharapuram, Tiruppur, when a passing lorry collided with their vehicle.

Fortunately, the injuries were minor, and all involved received immediate medical attention before being transferred to a private hospital for further treatment. Later that Saturday evening, Shankar was presented before a magistrate court in Coimbatore city.

Shankar’s driver, Ram Prabhu, and another individual identified as Rajarathinam in Theni district have also been taken into custody with the police seizing their vehicle in connection with the case.

Alleges custodial torture

Shankar’s mother has accused the police of torturing her son in jail. Kamala approached the Madras High Court, alleging her son was facing custodial torture.

She also requested that he be provided with proper medical treatment. She filed a habeas corpus petition seeking a judicial probe.

She alleged that Shankar exposing corruption scandals involving influential figures led to false charges against him by the government and corrupt officials.

Kamala has claimed in her petition that Shankar was falsely arrested by the Coimbatore Cyber Crime Police for speaking ill about women police personnel in an interview that he gave to a YouTube channel.

Her lawyer told the court that during the medical examination before his arrest, Shankar had been declared fit by the authorities.

However, when another lawyer met him in prison recently, Shankar claimed he had been assaulted and that he had suffered a fracture on his right arm.

In a recent interview, Shankar purportedly made damning allegations regarding the conduct of several women police constables and sub-inspectors, implying they engaged in compromises with senior male officers for personal gain in transfers, postings, and promotions.

The video also reportedly contained derogatory remarks about the police force at large.

Also Read: Don’t harass Tamil Nadu district collectors unnecessarily, SC tells ED

Fresh cases filed

Meanwhile, another case has been taken up against Shankar following a harassment complaint by journalist Sandhya Ravishankar.

She took to X saying, “After 6 years, @chennaipolice_registered an FIR on the basis of my complaint against ‘Savukku’ Shankar. CCB/Cyber Crime have regd a case u/s 294(b), 354D, 506(i), 509 IPC and section 4 of TN Prevention of Harassment of Women Act on 07.05.2024. Thanks to CoP, Chennai & team.”

The Chennai police confirmed the case against Shankar and updated the details of one more case against him.

“Based on the complaint filed by a woman Editor of a private media against Shankar @ Savukku Shankar a case was registered at Greater Chennai Police, CCB, Cyber Crime Police Station, under the sections of 294(b), 354D, 506 (i), 509 IPC and Sec.4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act (TNPHW Act),” they said on X.

“Further, another case has been registered on the complaint lodged by Veeralakshmi, founder and leader of Tamilar Munnetra Padai, against Shankar @ Savukku Shankar and Felix, at GCP, Central Crime Branch, Cyber Crime Police Station u/s 294(b), 506 (i) IPC. Police are investigating,” the Chennai police added.

His rise to fame was in 2008 after he disclosed audio recordings that purportedly revealed illicit wiretapping activities conducted by law enforcement agencies in the state.

He is a former employee of the state vigilance and anti-corruption department. From then on, Shankar evolved into a prominent critic of government corruption and injustice.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)