Thoothukudi firing: NHRC, TN govt in Madras HC’s line of fire

The litigant wanted the court to direct NHRC to reopen the case.

Published: 26th June 2021 05:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2021 05:07 AM   |  A+A-

The Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi

The Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

MADURAI: “Can we kill people, throw money at them and say our job is done? Is that the society we want to build?” the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court asked the State government and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) here on Friday.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice TS Sivagnanam orally raised the question while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed challenging NHRC’s decision dated October 25, 2018 to close a suo motu case initiated by the commission on the Thoothukudi Police Firing incident.

“It is somewhat alarming that the State through its police fires at unarmed protesters and no one is booked even three years after the incident. It may not augur well for a civilised society, governed by the constitutional principles that we have, to merely throw money at the families of the victims and give closure to an incident of possible brutality and excessive police action,” the Bench observed.

‘Submit probe report to court in a sealed cover’

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court also noted that the NHRC, in its order closing the case, referred to a report submitted by a principal secretary of the State on September 6, 2018.

Based on the report, the commission came to a conclusion that adequate compensation has been paid to the victims and sufficient steps have been taken by the government to restore normalcy in the district, the Bench added.

When the investigation was actually conducted against the State government, how the commission could be satisfied and close a case based on a report submitted by the State itself, it further criticised.

The Bench directed NHRC to forward its investigation team’s report to the court in a sealed cover. Further directions were issued to the State government to furnish Justice Aruna Jagadeesan’s interim report dated May 14, 2021 as well as the report submitted by it to NHRC in 2018, along with a counter affidavit expressing its stand in the issue. The case was adjourned to August 9. Considering the significance of the case, the Chief Justice decided to conduct future hearings on the case at the Principal Seat at Madras.

The PIL was filed by an advocate Henri Tiphagne of Madurai in connection with the police firing that took place during a protest against copper manufacturing plant ‘Sterlite’ in Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018 in which 13 persons were killed and several others were injured.

The litigant alleged that the commission, based on the State government’s report, closed its suo motu case without even mentioning the contents of the report submitted by its own spot investigation team which also probed into the matter in 2018.

He also claimed that both the report as well as the final order were not made available in public domain and that he obtained the closure order’s copy only after several attempts through RTITI. The litigant wanted the court to direct NHRC to reopen the case.


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