The Rajan case that Jai Bheem evokes in passing

The film Jai Bheem briefly refers to the case of Rajan, an engineering student who went missing after being arrested by the Kerala police. His father TV Eachara started a search for him which ended without any closure. Illustration: Manikandan R

In 1993, a heavily pregnant Parvathi, holding her young daughter in one hand, began a desperate search for her husband Rajakannu, who disappeared from custody in Tamil Nadu. Research that covered Tamil Nadu and the neighboring state of Kerala found the Madras High Court in between.

TJ Gnanavel’s film Jai Bheem has now told us how the search for Parvathi (introduced as Sengani and played by Lijomol Jose) ended with the discovery not of Rajakannu but of his body dumped by the side of the road to pass a murder into custody for a traffic accident. The film explores and explains how High Court lawyer K Chandru (played by Suriya) could help Parvathi find her husband – now dead.

Parvathi may never have found her husband’s body without a father’s struggle to find his missing son in 1976. To uncover the truth about what happened to Rajakannu, Chandru asks the Madras High Court to allow him to question witnesses, but questioning of witnesses was not permitted under the Habeas Corpus.

For the uninitiated, habeas corpus is a legal remedy that allows a person to report unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the person’s guardian, usually a prison officer, to bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful. To unravel this legal entanglement, Chandru cites the Rajan case, a Habeas Corpus case where the Kerala High Court allowed the questioning of witnesses. This turns out to be the turning point in Parvathi’s case, as the questioning of witnesses allows the brutal truth about what happened to Rajakannu to come to light.

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