The 2018 police firing on civilians protesting against Vedanta Sterlite’s copper smelting plant at Thoothukudi is a scar on democracy and must not be forgotten, the Madras High Court said on Monday.
“The incident is of the year 2018. It really has gone out of public mind but there were fifteen or sixteen citizens who lost their lives. That kind of incident should be a scar on the face of our democracy. We should never forget. If there can be something that can be done for families apart from what is done (let us do that)… there has to be closure…our system delays so much, that sometimes the entire idea is lost,” Bar and Bench quoted Chief Justice Banerjee as saying.
He made this observation while hearing a plea to reopen the National Human Right Commission’s (NHRC) probe into the matter.
The petition to reopen the NHRC inquiry has been filed by Henry Tiphagne, the executive director of non-government organisation People’s Watch, according to PTI.
The judge added that if there is the slightest indication that the firing was on behalf of any corporate body, it must be addressed.
“We want an answer as to what instigated … what were the circumstances? Without meaning disrespect, yes, the protest may not have been legal or legitimate, but citizens cannot be fired on the behalf of any corporate body…That is very important for the citizens of the State to know…(we have to) try and see that this kind of an incident does not happen again,” Judge said.
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice TS Sivagnanam asked the State to take steps to further compensate and counsel the victims of the 2018 shooting, including the families of the deceased and those who were impaired for life.
Thirteen protestors were killed in the police firing on May 22, 2018, causing outrage across the country and the subsequent closure of the plant. Residents of the area have consistently claimed the Sterlite Copper plant contaminated the region’s air and water resources.
The court noted that the Central Bureau of Investigation was also looking into the police firing and directed the agency to lend a “meaningful closure” to its inquiry.