Even if the 2018 protest against Vedanta Sterlite’s copper smelting plant at Thoothukudi may not have been legal or legitimate, the citizens cannot be fired on behalf of any corporate body, the Madras High Court observed while directing the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to seek the report of its investigation division in this regard urgently.
“The incident 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, there has to be closure,” Chief Justice Banerjee said.
Also, seeking an answer as to what instigated the firing on unarmed civilians protesting against the copper smelting plant and what were the circumstances that led to it, the bench said citizens cannot be fired on the behalf of any corporate.
“If there is the slightest indication that the firing was on behalf of any corporate body, it must be addressed. No one should feel that a corporate body has so much power that the State would fire on its behest,” he stressed.
“It is very important for the citizens of the State to know and we have to try and see that this kind of an incident does not happen again,” the bench led by Chief Justice Banerjee said.
The court held that the NHRC probe should be brought to its logical end. “The Commission is requested to report on what steps have been taken and as to the receipt of the report from its Investigation Division when the matter appears four weeks hence,” the Court directed.
Based on the earlier directions, the NHRC probe report was furnished to the court in a sealed cover so far. But during the hearing, the Chief Justice hinted that the report may be placed in public domain in future.
“The matter should be brought to its logical end as expeditiously as possible to give a meaningful closure to the matter and the circumstances in which firing had to be resorted to against unarmed citizens must come out in the report,” the court insisted.
The court also asked the government to take steps to further compensate the victims’ kin and provide counselling to them and those who were impaired for life. It also expressed hope that the CBI probing the case also comes out with its investigation report soon.