A young pregnant woman was killed and her husband injured on Wednesday when the two-wheeler they were riding was allegedly kicked by a traffic inspector for not stopping during a helmet check drive near Tiruchirappalli, police said.
The incident led to an outrage with locals staging a protest and clashing with police, following which inspector Kamaraj was arrested and suspended.
In Chennai, Chief Minister K Palaniswami today condoled the death of the woman, Usha, who was four months pregnant, and ordered a solatium of Rs 7 lakh to her kin besides assuring appropriate action after a probe.
Palaniswami said that on his orders, inspector Kamaraj was arrested immediately and lodged in prison.
The National Human Rights Commission took suo motu cognisance of the incident and sought a report from the Tamil Nadu government.
The incident also echoed in the Madras high court where social activist Traffic Ramaswamy made a mention and wanted the court to take suo motu (on its own) notice of it and proceed further.
However, first bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose refused to initiate suo motu proceedings and asked Ramaswamy to file a petition.
According to eyewitnesses, the inspector tried to stop the two-wheeler at Tuvakudi Toll plaza as Raja, riding the bike, for not wearing helmet.
However, as the man proceeded without stopping, Kamaraj took another two-wheeler and chased the couple and allegedly kicked it with his leg. The couple fell down near a roundabout on Tiruchirappalli–Thanjavur highway.
Usha, in her 30s, was rushed to a hospital but declared brought dead, police said. Her husband had been hospitalised with serious injuries.
An FIR was registered in connection withe incident, Inspector Kamaraj was produced before a court and remanded to judicial custody on Thursday.
He, however, denied kicking the two-wheeler.
In a press release, Palaniswami said he was grieved to learn that Usha died succumbing to severe injuries she sustained after falling off the two-wheeler.
He said when Kamaraj tried to stop the two-wheeler, the man "moved without stopping" at the Tuvakudi Toll plaza.
Stating that the inspector had been placed under suspension, Palaniswami assured appropriate action on completion of the criminal investigation in the case.
Enraged over the incident, local people staged a protest on the road last night, prompting police to make a lathicharge to disperse them.
A section of the crowd resisted the police action and attacked them, police said.
They said around 20 protesters and six police personnel were injured in the lathicharge and melee.
The NHRC in its notice said it had observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to worst example of police brutality and issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.
The report should include details on action taken against the delinquent police official and relief granted to the family of the deceased woman as well as the health condition of her husband and the status of the medical treatment being provided to him, according to a NHRC release.
"The right to life of the innocent woman has been grossly violated and the circumstances, as mentioned in the media reports, warrant stringent action against the guilty policeman," the commission said.
"The commission expects that the DGP, will issue suitable directions to the state police personnel to behave in a sensible manner while on duty and respect the human rights of the citizens."
In the high court, the Government Pleader submitted that an FIR had been registered in connection with the death of the woman.
He made the submission after the first bench responding to another mention on the matter by advocate Aswathaman asked the Government Pleader about the action taken.
The advocate alleged that police personnel were extracting money and misbehaving with the vehicle riders despite them having valid documents and wanted the court to take suo motu action.
To this, the Chief Justice orally observed that no doubt that atrocities should be curbed and stopped, but wondered how the high court can take suo motu action and direct Police or others not to take money without any evidence.