The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered the Tamil Nadu police to investigate and club all the FIRs filed against the protestors during the anti-Sterlite protest into a single FIR. It also directed the police to attach the remaining FIRs as statements of witnesses under the main FIR.
The bench comprising Justices CT Selvam and AM Basheer Ahamed were hearing Public Interest LItigation (PIL) petitions filed by advocate John Vincent and Ponpandian from Madurai.
In their petitions, they had demanded that the protest be treated as a single incident and hence only one FIR must be filed.
The counsel for the government submitted that it cannot be treated as one incident because the group of protestors who marched from Madha koil to the District Collectorate damaged a lot of government and private vehicles, and caused damage to public property. He said that the protestors also incited riots on their way to lay siege on the Collectorate and that they attacked the employees in the Collectorate and called them â€˜Slaves of Sterliteâ€™. The counsel, therefore, submitted that it cannot be considered as a single offence.
The bench, after hearing the arguments from both the sides, ordered that the case be investigated based on a single FIR and the remaining FIRs be converted into statements made by witnesses under section 161 (3) of the IPC.
The anti-Sterlite protest, which marked its 100th day on May 22 ended in riots after the police open fired at the protestors, killing 13 civilians. This incident sparked outrage across the country and the Tamil Nadu government, on May 28, ordered the closure of the Sterlite copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi for violating environmental laws.
A total of 173 FIRs were registered on the protestors based on everything that happened on May 22, and several more were arrested and locked up in jail.