On Monday, September 13, the Madras High Court asserted that the police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters in 2018 in Thoothukkudi is a scar on the face of democracy and said that citizens should not be fired at the behest of any corporate house.
The court directed the authorities concerned to drop all the cases registered against the protesters involved in the agitation and that the institution of the cases should not stand in the way of the future prospects of any of the protesters to disqualify them from any employment.
"The cases against the protesters should be dropped and the institution of the cases should not stand in the way of the future prospects of any of the protesters to disqualify them from any employment or other opportunities that may be available," a bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice T S Sivagnanam said.
The court urged the state to ensure that was no repeat of such an incident. It also observed that the National Human Rights Commission in its report had specified measures for providing relief to the victims and directed the state to take measures to provide psychiatric counselling as well as monetary compensation to the bereaved families.
'State Must Be Seen With Families And Not As An Adversary'
The court said the "state must be seen to be with the families and not an adversary, despite whatever may have happened." It added that the state needs to walk the extra mile for such a purpose. The court was hearing a PIL filed by social activist Henry Tiphagne over a report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the police firing not being made public.
Meanwhile, the state government told the court that the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of Inquiry (CoI), probing the police firing that led to the death of the protesters in Thoothukudi, could not complete its probe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a counter-affidavit filed before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice TS Sivagnanam, the government stated that the probe had to be stalled for different periods between April 2020 and June 2021 due to the threat posed by the first and second waves of COVID-19.
On May 22, 2018, 13 people lost their lives in police firing in the port town of Thoothukkudi in Tamil Nadu. They had been demanding the closure of a copper smelting unit due to environmental and health concerns.