Advocate accused of instigating anti-Sterlite protests in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi arrested
Tamil Nadu police on Thursday arrested advocate S Vanchinathan, one of the two lawyers accused of engineering anti-Sterlite Copper protests in Thoothukudi that resulted in police firing which killed 13 people on May 23.
Thoothukudi police picked up Vanchinathan at Chennai airport on Wednesday night on his return from New Delhi. He was the legal advisor for People’s Right Protection Centre, which actively participated in the Thoothukudi protests.
According to police officers who asked not to be identified, Vanchinathan is a practising advocate before the Madurai bench of the Madras high court and has been periodically visiting Thoothukudi, instigating villagers to protest against Sterlite Copper.
The copper factory of Sterlite in the coastal town has been a controversial one and locals worried about its environmental and health impact have been protesting its presence since the 1990s.
Both Vanchinathan and another lawyer, Hari Raghavan of Thoothukudi, have been booked under three sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 353 (criminal force to deter public servants from discharging duty), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons) and Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, police said.
“Prima facie our investigation reveals Vanchinathan’s association with protests. After being produced before a magistrate, the accused is now lodged in Palayamkottai jail. We are looking out for the other lawyer,” Murali Rambha, superintendent of police, Thoothukudi, told Hindustan Times. So far, about 250 arrests have been made in connection with the last month’s violence, Rambha added.
The Madurai bench of the Madras high court earlier this week dismissed anticipatory bail petitions moved by the two lawyers.
Meanwhile, the Madurai bench on Thursday dismissed the charges framed by the police against Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), office bearers who conducted a public meeting in violence-hit Thoothukudi district on June 18. The police filed a case against CPI(M) Thoothukudi district secretary K S Arjunan for violating a court order that allowed a maximum audience of 1,000 for its public meeting. The police claimed that 1,720 people participated and booked cases against the organisers.
Meanwhile, Sterlite has appealed afresh to the district administration demanding that its staff be allowed to attend to an acid leak, which according to an affidavit filed in the Madras high court is “serious issue and if not attended may lead to adverse ecological impact. “
Thoothukudi district collector Sandeep Nanduri dismissed Sterlite’s claim . “The minor acid leak has been arrested. Till now more than 1000 metric tonnes of sulphuric acid has been removed from the plant. In two days’ time, the storage tanks will be completely drained,” Nanduri said, adding that another 300 tonnes of acid need to be removed.