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Sattankulam custodial deaths: ‘Friends of Police’ services suspended till further notice

The services of Friends of Police has been suspended in Tamil Nadu till further advice. Senior police officers across the State instructed police stations to recall the identity cards given to the FoPs and not engage the volunteers in any police-related activities, police sources said on Sunday.

The move follows a controversy over FoP volunteers being engaged to beat P. Jayaraj and his son J. Benicks in the Sattankulam police station on the night of June 19, 2020, after they were arrested for allegedly violating the COVID-19 lockdown conditions and preventing the police from discharging their duty.

Though the FoP, which has senior IPS officer and Director-General of Police (CB-CID) Prateep V. Philip as its Founder & Director, headquartered in Kodambakkam here, issued a statement that there were no volunteers attached to the Sattankulam police station and the organisation had no role in the alleged custodial torture, the allegations continued to make news in various platforms. The organisation also claimed that some volunteers were engaged for COVID-19 related work by the Sattankulam police and they had nothing to do with the FOP.

The FOP is a project sanctioned by the State government and thousands of volunteers were enrolled in the organisation and attached to police stations in all cities/districts to assist the police locally. They were issued FOP photo identity cards. “The alleged involvement of FoP volunteers in the Sattankulam police station is under investigation by the CB-CID. We have received instructions from the police headquarters to recall the identity cards and not to engage FoP volunteers till further advice,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.

Editor booked

In a related development, the CB-CID booked the editor of Makkal Seithi Maiyam for allegedly publishing “morphed” photographs of the bodies of Jayaraj and Benicks.

Sources in the agency said that a case was registered against him under the provisions of Section 153A(1)(b) (Act prejudicial to the maintenance of communal harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb pubic tranquillity) Section 469 (forgery) among others read with Section 66(D) (Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource).

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