Custodial Torture must end in the Country # Justice for Mathai

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                                     #JUSTICE FOR MATHAI

We through this petition wish to draw your attention to the recent death of a young farmer named P.P. Mathai (41) alias Ponnu (as known lovingly) was found dead near a well in Chittar, Pathnamthitta District, Kerala. The death of this farmer has been under suspicious circumstances. He was apparently forcibly called out by forest personnel of Ranni Division on 28th July, 2020 at around 4pm from his house in the name of enquiry for no reasonable reasons as such, and was found dead on the same day at about 6:30pm in the well near his farm. The family and villagers allege that the forest personnel decided to take Ponnu (hereinafter referred to as “deceased”) in custody on the basis of some hearsay allegation that the deceased had damaged the CCTV camera deployed in the area. It is herein submitted that the forest officials had no right to take the deceased in custody on the above said ground. The cognizance for damage of CCTV if any, comes within the domain of investigation of the Kerala Police.


The 7 forest officers who came to arrest Mathai, have acted in strict defiance of the procedures established by law. Section 64 of the Forest Act mandates the forest officers to arrest a person, but it specifies that the same ought to be done when there is a “reasonable” suspicion. In the instant case there were no reasonable grounds for arrest of the deceased. Secondly, there is a genuine apprehension that the general diary which a forest officer must maintain and record details of arrest has been tampered. The apprehension of tampering of evidence is growing with the recent report that the mobile phone which Mathai had in hand at the time of arrest, is now missing. Also, the delay on the part of Forest officials to provide the mandatory vigilance report to the concerned Minister by the  Forest Officer, Ranni substantiates the bonafide belief of the friends, family and locals that all efforts are been made to weaken the case.


The death of Mathai has put his 9-member family in deep sorrow. Mr. Mathai was talking care of his family comprising of an 84 year old mother, his wife, 8 year and 4 year old daughter, an unmarried handicapped sister and a widow sister who has 2 children. The condition of the family causes more pain to all who have heard of the death of Mr. Mathai. The young farmer was managing the needs of the family through his farming activities.


The most disappointing aspect is that till now there has been no announcement of a compensation package to the family. The family of the young farmer is in extreme pain and now seem to have lost faith in the ongoing investigation process, this is apparent from the fact that the family has decided not to conduct the funeral of Mathai till all the guilty forest officials are arrested.


It is herein relevant to mention that it is the responsibility of the civil society to come together and raise voice against the custodial torture in the country. Reports suggest that every day an average of five people die in custody in India. Just a month back, a father and son died in police custody in Tamil Nadu. Another incident which has recently shocked the nation was the scenes of torture meted out by the Madhya Pradesh police on a Dalit couple and their kin in Guna District of Madhya Pradesh.


Hence, the Orthodox Christian Youth Movement, Delhi Diocese, through the instant petition is demanding the following from this petition:-


a. The suffering family members of PP Mathai must get justice. They should get fitting compensation and one of the family members should get a government job.

b. Free and fair investigation must be done and those guilty of killing the poor farmer must be punished under law.

c. The culture of custodial torture and impunity which is going on in the country unabated must be brought to an end through robust legislations. 

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