Sri Lankan Tamil dies in police custody

Mohan was detained at the Pallikaranai police station for enquiry

Chennai: A 46-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil, picked up by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) cops for interrogation in an alleged fake passport racket, died in police custody during the early hours of Friday, sparking suspicions of police brutality.

K. Mohan, who was residing at Ram gardens, Sowmya Nagar in Medavakkam was picked up by a team of plainclothes cops around 2.30 am on Thursday.

“He was sleeping on the terrace while his live-in partner Ms Fatima Rizana and her three children were sleeping inside the house when he was taken by the cops,” a friend of the victim said.

Mohan was detained at the Pallikaranai police station for enquiry. Later in the day, the woman also was taken there for enquiry and sent back in the evening.

According to reliable police sources, “Mohan was assaulted by the Pallikarani police personnel during enquiry after which he swooned in the station. By the time the cops took him to the Global Hospital in Perumbakkam he had died.” Mohan's body was then shifted to the Government Royapettah Hospital (GRH) for autopsy.

“On Friday, around 5.30 am, I got a call from Rizana. She was informed by the cops that he had died while in custody after a 'health complication', Mr Niranjan (name changed) told DC at the GRH mortuary. Niranjan and his friend, who were the only ones well acquainted with the deceased, waited at the GRH mortuary the whole day. They had known him from his days as an export-import dealer, when he used to work out from an office in Mannadi about until a year ago.

“A loss in business forced him to shut shop and he was doing odd jobs,” according to R. Sumitra, Mohan's sister-in-law who reached the mortuary in the evening.

“The cops managed to get it in writing from Mohan's partner that he died of cardiac arrest and also promised monetary compensation apart from a job for her eldest son,” claimed Niranjan, who fears pressure from the cops.

Ms Rizana, with whom the victim had been living for the past nine years, was not seen at the Royapettah mortuary. A case under section 176 CrPC has been registered and referred for judicial inquiry, a senior police officer said adding that a post mortem on Mohan's body would be carried out on Saturday in the presence of a magistrate.

The cop, however, maintained that Mohan died of cardio-pulmonary arrest around 3.45 am on Friday. “Our team has seized 20 fake visas, three passports and laptops from him. He was said to be having a history of diabetes and low sugar,” the officer added.

Holes galore in police theory

As soon as news about Mohan’s custodial death trickled in, city police flip-flopped on the reasons for the death until evening when they unanimously decided on the ‘cardiac arrest’ version.

The first theory to come out was that a drunk and unstable Mohan was picked up by a patrol team and taken to the Global hospital for treatment where he died.

Officers from the rank of assistant commissioner to joint commissioner either expressed ignorance of the incident or toed the usual ‘died of cardiac arrest’ line when questioned by mediapersons.

Huge crowd gathers at the Government Royapettah mortuary on Friday including pro-Tamil outfits and members of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) condemning the police action. (Photo: DC)

By evening, the final stand was decided though. “The accused (K.Mohan) was one of the agents operating under a notorious criminal, Shankar Lal who runs a fake passport racket. Our team recovered 20 fake visas, three passports and laptops from him,” a senior police officer said.

The officer further added, “He had a history of diabetes and low sugar. Around, 1 am on Friday, he complained of uneasiness and swooned after which Pallikaranai police rushed him to Global hospital.”

At 3.45 am, Mohan was declared to have died of cardio-pulmonary arrest by doctors at the multi-specialty hospital, the officer said.

Niranjan (name changed), a friend of the victim for the past nine years, can only let a smile at the cops’ version. “He (Mohan) underwent a complete medical check-up only less than a week ago and he was hale and healthy,” he said.

R. Sumitra is married to the victim’s younger brother, Ramesh, Mohan’s only blood relative in the country. “Their parents and Mohan’s wife stay in Canada. His sisters live at Mannar in Sri Lanka,” Sumitra said. Ramesh was in Puzhal prison in connection with an NDPS Act case.

“As far as I remember, Mohan had no health complications and didn’t have any unhealthy habits (drinking and smoking) either. That, he died of cardiac arrest is unbelievable,” a nonchalant Sumitra said at the Royapettah mortuary.

Magisterial inquiry ordered, says CoP

Amidst allegations that Sri Lankan national Mohan died due to custodial torture, the city police commissioner clarified on Friday that a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident and hoped that the probe would bring out the background in which the foreign national died.

Talking to this newspaper, S. George, city police chief, said that a magisterial inquiry would bring out the truth.

Senior police officers disclosed that members of an anti-gangster team picked Mohan up early on Thursday morning from his house.

“Anti gangster personnel deal with toughies from the streets. It is not clear if they used rough tactics while handling Mohan. We are also not sure if he was ill treated at the Pallikaranai station where he was handed over by the anti-gangster team in the night for further action. Initial report from the hospital indicates that he died of cardio-pulmonary problems,” an officer noted.

The anti gangster team has been very active in the city and has arrested scores of history-sheeters in the past. This is the first time the team, which sometimes turns rogue according to situations, is accused of being responsible for custodial death.

The anti-gangster team comes under CCB officials and usually interrogates the suspect, either at the old commissioner’s office premise in Egmore or in some local stations, sources said.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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