53-yr-old dies in police custody in Kerala; cop suspended, probe on

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P Manoharan, a 53-year-old man taken to a police station after a vehicle inspection, died in mysterious circumstances in Hill Palace police station in Tripunithura in Ernakulam district on Saturday night.

Eyewitnesses said Manoharan was taken into custody for not stopping his scooter after police signalled him to do so

A sub-inspector has been suspended and the state government has ordered a crime branch inquiry into the incident, a police officer said, declining to be named.

Manoharan was brutally assaulted before being taken to the police station and was tortured at the precinct as well, local residents and relatives alleged. Police said he was taken to the station after they failed to elicit a proper explanation from him during a routine vehicle check. He later collapsed at the station house and died on the way to the hospital, they said. Manoharan’s post-mortem examination report said that he died of a cardiac arrest, officials familiar with the matter said.

Eyewitnesses said Manoharan was taken into custody for not stopping his scooter after police signalled him to do so. He stopped his vehicle a little farther and policemen ran after him and slapped him after he removed his helmet. Later, he was forcibly taken to the police station, they said. When relatives reached the station, they were told he was admitted to a hospital after he collapsed.

“It was cold-blooded murder. He was tortured to death. He did not have any serious medical issues. Though he said he did not see policemen initially and stopped later when they ran behind his scooter, they were not willing to believe it,” one of his relatives said, seeking anonymity. “The area where the checking took place was dark, without proper lighting.”

Local residents demonstrated outside the police station on Sunday. The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party later held protest marches to the police station, seeking action against the erring policemen.

“He was tortured to death. The chief minister, who is holding the home portfolio, may say it is another isolated incident,” said Congress leader V D Satheesan after visiting Manoharan’s house. “We want murder charges to be slapped on policemen who took him into custody.”

A clearer picture will emerge only after an autopsy, police said.

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