THOOTHUKUDI: The one-man commission appointed by the Tamil Nadu government to probe the police firing against anti-Sterlite protesters in May 2018 has questioned 492 people over 20 phases of the investigation and has studied over 660 documents pertaining to the incident. However, the questioning of police and revenue officials has been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 13 people were killed and hundreds injured in the firing that took place on May 22 and May 23, 2018. The State government had appointed a one-man commission, chaired by Retired Justice Aruna Jegadeesan, on May 24, 2018 in order to investigate the incident.
Sources said that the commission had so far conducted 20 phases of investigation and had questioned 492 persons, including relatives of the deceased, injured, detainees, activists, party leaders, advocates, reporters and photographers who covered the incident as well as officials of the social welfare department. Over 660 documents/evidences related to the firing incident have been studied, they said.
"The 20th phase of the probe was conducted in March and schedules for April and May have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Police officials and revenue officials deployed for managing the crowd on the days of the firing are yet to be questioned," sources said.
The commission had recommended that the State government provide Rs 20 lakh as compensation to the kin of the deceased Justin of Keelamudiman and a government job to his mother.
Justice Jagadeesan had also recommended that the government bear the medical expenses of Naam Tamilar Katchi woman's wing district secretary P Judy Hema, as she had sustained grievous injuries when a policeman allegedly hit her in the belly with a gun.
The commission had also recommended that jobs based on their educational qualification be provided to some victims.
Meanwhile, the Thoothukudi unit of the CPM had failed to appear before the commission despite being summoned several times. The party's district unit counsel Advocate E Subbu Muthuramalingam alleged that the probe is an eye wash, as it is not empowered to bring the accused before a court of law.
Key persons questioned by the commission include Thoothukudi MLA Geetha Jeevan and Naam Tamilar Katchi leader Seeman. Actor Rajinikanth was summoned for questioning but his advocate sought a questionnaire instead. Those privy to the commission’s functioning said the actor would be summoned again after the lockdown ends. Environment activist R Mugilan, currently facing charges of sexual assault, has also questioned by the commission.