Even as cases of police atrocities — custodial torture that has at times resulted in death — in Tamil Nadu continue to be heard in court, a fresh inquiry has been ordered against the assistant superintendent of police (ASP) of Ambasamudram in the Tirunelveli district — an IPS officer — over allegations that he brutalised a group of men picked up in connection with different cases.
According to a complaint from this group of men, ASP Balveer Singh visited the Kallidaikurichi Police Station on Thursday, 23 March to interrogate 10-odd detainees who were said to be involved in various cases, including clashes, money-lending, and damaging CCTV cameras in a property.
The IPS officer, along with his gunman and a few policemen in the station, reportedly assaulted the detainees ruthlessly and allegedly plucked their teeth using a plier.
It was also alleged that the police officer crushed the testicles of two of the detainees.
A video was circulated on social media of a person named Chellappa, who runs a mutton stall at Sivanthipuram, apparently elaborating on the ordeal he and his brothers underwent at the police station.
In the video, he stated that after Singh came to the station with his gunman, he “changed his uniform to a casual attire”.
Then, his gunman with other policemen in the station made the inmates stretch their hands, as he started to thrash them ruthlessly with a stick.
The man in the video also alleged that the ASP crushed the testicles of his brother despite coming to know that he was newly married.
Chellappa told South First that the ASP, while continuously asking whether they were rowdy elements, wore a glove, and plucked his tooth using a cutting plier.
Another detainee from Ambasamudram told South First: “The ASP and a sub-inspector slapped us continuously. They put a blue-metal stone (basalt stone, often used in construction) in our mouths and forced us to bite it. Then he hit us in the face. Our teeth were broken and we spit blood.”
He added: “They also made us sit in our underwear. Later, the inspector and other policemen stood on our thighs and beat us with a stick.”
The person also alleged that the police told them not to reveal the assault to the magistrate before whom they were to be produced.
Tirunelveli SP Saravanan has ordered a departmental inquiry into the matter. Tirunelveli District Collector KP Karthikeyan has ordered a separate enquiry.
On Monday, Cheranmahadevi Sub Divisional Magistrate and Sub Collector Mohammad Shabir Alam started his inquiry.
The officer went to the Ambasamudram Police Station and started his enquiry. Meanwhile, ASP Balveer Singh has been relieved from duty.
Inspector General of Police (South Zone) Asra Garg told South First: “We have ordered a detailed inquiry, based on which action will be taken against the errant police officials if the allegations are true. Meanwhile, we have relieved the ASP from duty.”
When South First contacted ASP Balveer Singh, he did not respond.
Recent custodial torture cases
This appears to be the latest entry on the list of horrific custodial torture cases to have come out of Tamil Nadu in the recent years.
On 19 June, 2020, P Jayaraj and his son J Bennix were picked up for inquiry by the Sathankulam police and allegedly died due to custodial torture.
In the case, which shocked the state, 10 policemen — including the inspector of the police station — were suspended and arrested. The case is currently in court.
On 19 April, 2022, Chennai-resident Vignesh was picked by the Chennai Secretariat Police and died in custody. Six policemen were arrested in the case.
On 29 April, 2022, 48-year-old farmer Thangamani from Thattaranai was detained by the Tiruvannamalai enforcement wing on charges of selling illicit liquor, and died in police custody
On 17 May, 2022, four policemen, including a sub-inspector, in Thothukudi were suspended in a custodial torture case filed by a woman named Sumathi.
On 12 June, 2022, 33-year-old history sheeter S Rajasekar from Tiruvallur died in police custody. The case was transferred to the CB-CID and the needle of suspicion swung towards five policemen.
On 23 June, 2022, a 22-year-old named Ajith went to the Kulasekaram Police Station to complain about his mobile phone being stolen. He ended up dead at the station.
Though the relatives of the deceased alleged custodial torture, the police denied it.
On 13 January this year, a 21-year-old law student named Abdul Rahim was subjected to custodial torture by the Kodungaiyur police.
An FIR was registered against nine police officers, including the inspector of the station.
CM’s assurance went in vain
On 10 May, 2022, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin assured the House during the Assembly session that no accused would be tortured physically or mentally in police custody, and said that custodial tortures and deaths could not be justified.
He also warned of strict action against the police personnel who tortured the accused.
Stalin also assured the safety of the detainees in the police stations and jails.
DGP (Head of the Police Force) C Sylendra Babu also issued a standing order last year to the police not to behave ruthlessly with the accused and to remand them before the concerned court soon after preliminary investigations.
Political parties take a stand
PMK leader DR Ramadoss, in a statement, condemned the latest police brutality and sought the suspension of the ASP with immediate effect.
“When such IPS officers involved in this kind of brutality are promoted to a higher post, there won’t be any safety for the common man,” he said.
He also demanded that a case be registered against Singh, who should also be arrested.
Tamil Nadu BJP president Annamalai, in his statement, said: “Whatever the reason might be, such brutality on the accused cannot be accepted.”
He added: “In recent days, people are losing confidence in the police department due to such custodial torture incidents. Hence, the affected should be compensated and the errant police officials must be prosecuted.”
Train higher officials: Psychiatrist
Speaking on custodial tortures, psychiatrist and counsellor Dr C Kumarasamy told South First said that the unlimited powers conferred on the police and the prevailing situation — where no one can seemingly question a police officer — give cops the privilege to assault the powerless.
He explained: “In this case, the police officer must be given counselling, as the torture method he applied is with an intention to inflict immense pain on the victims.”
Kumarasamy continued: “Though there are various counselling programmes conducted by the police, it’s all for the low-level police personnel and not for the higher officials. Higher officials should also be inducted in such training sessions.”
He added: “When a senior officer initiates such cruelty, it gives courage to his subordinates to get involved in such activities.”