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Madras HC issues notice in PIL calling for CBI probe into Thoothukudi Police Firing

Meera Emmanuel

The Division Bench of Justices P Velmurugan and T Ravindran on Friday issued notice in a PIL praying for a CBI probe into the May 22 police shooting on unarmed civilians protesting the expansion of the Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), which has resulted in 13 fatalities.

In his petition, Advocate A Suryaprakasam has contended that it is prima facie clear that several top police officials were directly involved in the brutal killing spree.

In this context, the Chief Minister E Palaniswami’s move to justify the actions of the police has not helped. Suryaprakasam’s petition notes that the clean certificate given by the Chief Minister to the police has created a perception among the public that the investigation by the state police will not be fair and transparent.

In view of this scenario, the petitioner has argued for a CBI probe, contending that,

“...the truth will not come out and the erring police officials will not be booked or punished which ultimately lead[s] to [a] miscarriage of justice, hence it is absolutely necessary that the investigation into the massacre of the 13 innocent civilians has to be entrusted to the CBI…

A representation to this effect has already been made to the State Home Secretary by the petitioner.

As for the case before the Court, the Home Secretary is expected to file a counter in the matter when it is taken up next on May 30.

The PIL comes in the backdrop of a similar plea for a CBI probe before the Supreme Court, and another PIL for an expeditious NHRC probe before the Delhi High Court.

In the meanwhile, the Bench has also impleaded S Balaiah, the father of one, Shanmugam, who was among those shot at Thoothukudi. Balaiah has moved the Court praying for the release of his slain son’s body for the conduct of funeral rites.

The interim orders passed by the Court earlier with a view to ensuring that the post-mortem is properly conducted had prevented the authorities from releasing Shanmugam’s body.

Balaiah has submitted that Shanmugam was not involved in the protest at all. Rather, while on his way to withdraw money from an ATM, he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time resulting in his untimely death.

While Balaiah had signed a form prepared by the police after Shanmugam’s death, he was not aware that the form referred to Shanmugam as one of the protesters. In his petition, he has stated,

In my grief, I did not even read the letter completely and affixed my signature to the same. I understand that the letter indicates that my son also participated in the agitation against Sterlite on 22.05.2018.

I submit to the best of my knowledge, my son was not involved in any protest or agitation but was a victim of police firing only by reason of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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