In a fresh development in the investigations into the Thoothukudi police shootings which resulted in the death of 13 civilians during the anti-Sterlite agitations in the district, the Terms of Reference of the probe panel has been expanded.
The Commission of Inquiry, led by retired Madras High Court Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, will now be expanded to include the events following the protest and police shootings on May 22.
A day after the shootings, the one-woman panel was appointed to look into â€śthe causes and circumstances leading to the opening of fire resulting in death and injuries to persons on 22.05.2018 at Thoothukudi arising out of law and order disturbances including damage to public and private properties.â€ť
The panel was also set to â€śdetermine whether appropriate force was used as warranted by the circumstances and whether all prescribed procedures were observed before opening of fire.â€ťIn addition to recommending measures to prevent such incidents in future, the commission was tasked with looking into â€śwhether there was any excess on the part of police officials and if so, to suggest action to be taken.â€ť
The commission has been given three months to complete the investigations. However, with the expansion of its scope, it is now expected to take longer than August 2018 for the report to be submitted.
The decision, taken by the Tamil Nadu Government, is significant since police action following the shootings came under severe criticism. On May 23, a day after 11 civilians were gunned down, police opened fire again, leading to the death of 22 year-old Kaliappan near Anna Nagar. Even as Kaliappan lay motionless on the road, policemen in riot gear were caught on tape telling him to "stop acting."
The government order issued on Thursday also invited members of the general public and victims to furnish any information known to them to the Commission by July 27.
A police bus was also torched on the same day in Bryant Nagar, less than 2 kilometres away from the government hospital where grieving families of the deceased and injured had gathered.
May 22 marked the 100th day of a large scale demonstration which had taken place against the Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi district. The residents had complained about the plant- which had flouted Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board rules- for contaminating their groundwater and air for over two decades.