Kallakurichi hooch tragedy: Madras HC initiaties suo motu case, says SC/STs forced to brew liquor

“Our endeavour is to protect their educational rights, economic status, and other fundamental needs,” the bench said.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court(File photo | Express)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has initiated a suo motu case regarding the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy, which has claimed the lives of over 60 people, with several others under treatment in different hospitals.

A division bench comprising of Justices S M Subramaniam and C Kumarappan on Monday initiated the suo motu case after ‘taking into account the shocking revelations’ made by Senior Advocate K R Tamilmani in his television interviews on the incident.

Clarifying that it was not addressing the ‘political fight’ over the issue, the bench noted that its primary concern was the need to ‘reform’ the people living in and around Kalvarayan Hills and to safeguard their ‘constitutional rights.’ “Our endeavour is to protect their educational rights, economic status, and other fundamental needs,” the bench said.

Referring to the economic underdevelopment of the people living in the villages of Kalvarayan Hills, predominantly inhabited by persons belonging to SC and ST communities, the bench said, “Due to economic backwardness and unemployment, the people residing in these areas are being forced to manufacture illicit liquor for their livelihood.”

The tragedy took place despite prohibition being enforced in the state, leading to loss of lives, with the worst-affected coming from the ‘vulnerable sections of society,’ thereby ‘warranting immediate action,’ the bench stated.

Saying that it is the state’s role to contemplate measures to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies, the bench said, “The court would like to bring to the fore the plight of people who are pushed into the business of illicit liquor manufacturing.”

Recalling the history of Kalvarayan Hills, the bench noted that the three Jagirdhars holding rights over the hills refused to join with the territory of India till June 25, 1976, and only during the emergency were they forced to handover these areas by the then district collector of South Arcot district.

“The history and current condition of the region deserve immediate attention and measures to ensure the people have access to facilities and welfare schemes,” the bench noted.

“This issue needs to be addressed at the earliest, and comprehensive measures for the economic and social development of the people of the region are a constitutional priority. It is for all concerned to ensure that the constitutional mandates, directives, principles, and ethos are not only honoured but implemented in letter and spirit,” the bench stressed.

The bench directed the Registry to implead the Secretary of the Union Tribal Welfare Ministry, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Secretary, the DGP, and district collectors and SPs of Kallakurichi and Salem districts as parties. It also asked the Registry to place the suo motu writ before the Acting Chief Justice for appropriate orders.

‘Officials responsible for Thoothukudi firing shall be prosecuted for murder’

Chennai: Officials responsible for firing on Thoothukudi anti-Sterlite protesters in 2018 shall be prosecuted for murder, remarked Madras HC’s division bench comprising of Justices S S Sundar and N Senthilkumar, when the petition, filed by executive director of People’s Watch Henri Tiphagne, seeking orders to the NHRC to reopen the probe into the firing, came up for hearing on Monday.

The bench asked who were the officials who issued the orders for firing on the people and who else were responsible for the loss of lives. The remarks were made after the counsel for DSP Lingathirumaran, one of the police officers impleaded in the case, submitted that the NHRC is not empowered to reopen the case once it closes.

Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan commission have also inquired the same issue, the counsel pointed out. The counsel for the CBI contended that the petitioner has no locus standi and the special court for CBI has been hearing the matter and an additional charge sheet was filed before the special court. The bench adjourned the matter to July 15, 2024. ENS

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