The LexGaze Weekly - STALWARTS

Hon'ble Mr Justice P.N. Prakash and Hon'ble Mr Justice B. Pugalendhi

Yamika Khanna

Issue 3 | July 4, 2020

The entire country received a wake-up call about the increase in cases of police brutality after the news of custodial death of Jayaraj and Bennix spread like wildfire. The judiciary, in the spirit of justice, equity and good conscience took Suo moto cognizance of the extrajudicial killing under the judicial watch of Hon'ble Justice P.N. Prakash and Hon'ble Justice B. Pugalendhi.

The pro-active role of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court appeared like a beam of light, changing the course of investigation in cases of police brutality and consequent custodial death. The bench asserted that, "One may wonder as to why it took this long for this Court to make the above observations. Public indignation cannot be the barometer for judicial orders. Public memory is short, but judicial orders, especially, those of the High Court, which is a Court of record, live forever. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor committed the blunder of condemning Jesus Christ to death based on public outcry in a sham trial that was held before dawn and thereafter, washed his hands off with water. We cannot afford to emulate him. Hitherto, in the absence of credible materials, we were handicapped and now that we have at hand some prima facie incriminatory materials, we decided to fill the gap via our above observations."

This view of the court is in consonance with the antemortem injuries found on the bodies of Jayaraj and Bennix. It led the court to observe the presence of prima facie evidence to alter the case and bring it under Section 302 IPC. Furthermore, the two-judge bench called out the nature of police investigation concerned with police brutality. They expressed their concern by observing that "In fact, they(police) were emboldened enough to even intimidate the judicial officer to put spokes in the wheel of his enquiry".

The liberal approach adopted by the two-judge bench to preserve the principles of separation of power and system of checks and balances along with rendering justice, explained the importance of the judiciary to step in and ensure that precious evidence does not get dissipated. The Suo moto petition also emerges as a beacon of hope and accountability in times of rising extrajudicial killing. It serves as a warning to those indulged in extra-constitutional mechanisms. Thus, the rationale and strive for justice patronised by Hon'ble Justice P.N. Prakash and Hon'ble Justice B. Pugalendhi marks the beginning of a change in the alignment of preserving the constitutional machinery.

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