The court also said that the state should be seen with families of the Sterlite firing victims, and not as an adversary.

Anti-sterlite protesters watch as smoke engulfs the air in the distance during the 2018 protestsFile PTI
news Court Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - 07:37

The Madras High Court has called the police firing at anti-Sterlite protesters which killed 18 unarmed protestors in Thoothukudi “a scar on our democracy”. “We should never forget,” the court said while hearing a plea to reopen an National Human Rights Commission case on the matter. 

In an interim order, the court said that the incident happened in 2018 and has gone out of the public mind, “but there were... people who lost their lives”. It then ordered the Tamil Nadu government to further compensate families of those who died in the 2018 Sterlite firing. The court also requested the state to provide counselling to members of the families affected by the violence, if it is possible to do so. 

The court said that despite the past, the Tamil Nadu state must “be seen to be with the families and not an adversary”. It was the Tamil Nadu police personnel who opened fire at the unarmed group protesting against the plans to expand the Sterlite Copper smelter in Thoothukudi on May 22 and 23, 2018 that killed 18 people and injured 102. 

Adding that if there was anything more to be done for the families, over and above what has been done, then this should also be made possible by the state. The court then said that these families need closure and that sometimes “our system delays so much that sometimes the entire idea (of justice) is lost”. 

The interim order also added that the National Human Rights Commission report has also suggested certain measures including enhancing compensation to families of those who died and to those who are severely injured or are impaired for life. The court added that the state should consider realistic compensation for these persons (injured) as well. 

In another point, the court added that if the shooting had been perpetrated on the behalf of a corporate body (in this case Sterlite), then that must be addressed. 

“...Yes, the protest may not have been legal or legitimate, but citizens cannot be fired on the behalf of any corporate body,” it said. 

 The order also said that the pending CBI probe into the state police firing on unarmed protesters  should be completed and done as quickly as possible. The report, the court said, should bring out circumstances in which firing was resorted to against unarmed protesters. 

The court also said that the case before the NHRC should also be brought to its logical conclusion. It then ordered the NHRC to report on steps taken and asked for a final report from its investigation department when the matter will be heard in four weeks time.

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