The police firing happened on the 100th day of the protests demanding permanent closure of the Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi, alleging that it caused severe pollution. (PTI)
The police firing happened on the 100th day of the protests demanding permanent closure of the Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi, alleging that it caused severe pollution. (PTI)

Bring a ‘logical end’ to 2018 anti-Sterlite protest case: HC

Taking a note that the CBI is also probing the case, the court said, “The matter should be brought to its logical end, as expeditiously as possible, to give a meaningful closure to the matter, and the circumstances in which firing had to be resorted to against unarmed citizens must come out in the report.”
By HT Correspondent, Chennai
PUBLISHED ON SEP 14, 2021 12:03 AM IST

The Madras high court on Monday said that the investigation into the police firing during anti-Sterlite protests in May 2018, that killed 13 persons in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district, should come to its logical end.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice TS Sivagnanam observed while hearing a plea, filed by Henri Tiphagne, executive director, People’s Watch, a human rights organisation seeking directions for the National Human Right Commission’s (NHRC) to reopen a probe into the matter. Tiphange, in a previous hearing, had informed the court that the NHRC had closed the case in October 2018 since compensation was paid to the victims’ family, and a judicial commission (retired justice Aruna Jagadeesan) was probing police excesses.

The police firing happened on the 100th day of the protests demanding permanent closure of the Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi, alleging that it caused severe pollution. The NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident the following day. The previous AIADMK regime ordered the plant to shut, and Vedanta’s plea for reopening is still pending before the Supreme Court.

Taking a note that the CBI is also probing the case, the court said, “The matter should be brought to its logical end, as expeditiously as possible, to give a meaningful closure to the matter, and the circumstances in which firing had to be resorted to against unarmed citizens must come out in the report.”

The NHRC had submitted its report with recommendations to the court in a sealed cover. “Since the report did not see the light of the day or may not have been forwarded to the state, the recommendations have not been implemented,” the court observed. “To the extent that the recommendations remain relevant and it may be possible to implement the same, all agencies should carry the matter forward.”

One of the NHRC’s recommendations was to provide enhanced compensation to victims of the police firing and their families. The court said that the state must be on the side of the families and not be seen as an adversary. “The state is requested to play the real parental role in providing counselling and psychiatric assistance to the members of the bereaved families, if necessary,” the court said. “The state needs to walk the extra mile for such a purpose.” The court requested the Advocate-General, R Shunmugasundaram to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to assuage the feelings of the families of the victims.

The court added that the matter before the NHRC should also be brought to its logical end, and the court directed NHRC to report on what steps have been taken based on a report from its Investigation Division when the matter appears next on October 25.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu government granted the Jagadeesan committee an extension to complete its probe before February 22, 2022, after submitting an interim report to chief minister M K Stalin in May when the DMK assumed office.

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