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tuticorin police firing

i. People’s Watch wishes to appreciate the Government of Tamil Nadu for calling for an interim report from the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of Inquiry, receiving the same on 14th May, 2021 and accepting all the recommendations made in the same. However, it is not to be forgotten that none of the recommendations made by the Commission related to its first three terms of reference related to (i) causes and circumstances leading to the opening of fire resulting in death and injuries to persons on 22.05.2018; (ii) whether appropriate force was used as warranted by the circumstances and whether all prescribed procedures were observed before the opening of fire; and (iii) whether there was any excess on the part of police officials. Paying compensations and providing employment alone to the dependents of the deceased however, cannot deliver justice to the families of the 16 killed in the violence and the over 200 injured with simple and grievous injuries.

ii. People’s Watch wishes to point out that every institution that was expected under the law to detect and investigate the culprits responsible for the opening of fire and use of violence on 22nd May, 2018 such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Human Rights Commission and the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of enquiry seem to have been functioning in collusion to ensure that there is no justice to state institutions responsible for the lives and property lost.

iii. People’s Watch wishes to immediately ensure that the Government intervenes in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, asking the Hon’ble Court to take over the monitoring of the CBI investigation ordered on 14th August, 2018 and asking the CBI to periodically report to the Court to ensure that the accused in the second CBI FIR (against officials) are named and the charge sheet laid within a period of 30 days.

iv. People’s Watch demands that in the absence of the CBI doing so, the Government should not hesitate to ask for the CBI investigation to be handed over to a specially constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) an SIT to be constituted by the High Court in consultation with the Government.

v. People’s Watch is of the considered opinion that with the evidence of the performance by the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission since its establishment in May 2018 till now, it is clearly evident that there have been no special efforts to hasten the process of the inquiry by either working on more days in a month, or by resorting to summoning police witnesses to its main office at Greenways Road or even by resorting to an online examination of witnesses. At the present pace, there is no chance of the Commission to complete its main terms of reference in another 24 months. Continuing with such an important Commission and terms of reference with such lethargy will not auger well for the new Government to reach at findings and recommendations that could bring justice to the people who engaged in the peaceful protest for the closure of Sterlite / Vedantha.

vi. People’s Watch wishes to impress that in this age of right to information, the Government has a duty to let its citizens know what happened in Thoothukudi on 22nd May 2018 and thereafter. After the former Government had made known to the National Human Rights Commission that it had appointed the Commission of enquiry headed by Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, the Government now had a duty to either provide the complete findings or close the present Commission that was unable to deliver its terms of reference in 36 months.

vii. People’s Watch therefore recommends :

  • that all the evidence that was so far gathered by the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of Enquiry is made immediately and fully available to the public in a spirit of transparency on a Government website;
  • that the Government immediately passes orders for the discontinuation and closure of the functioning of the present Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission since its terms of reference have not been completed even partly after three years when it has only held 111 days of hearings in its existence for 1093 days. ;
  • that the new Government constitutes a fresh Commission of inquiry with a fresh term of reference directly related to the police firing and use of force to be headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and assisted by a team of High Court Judges and more retired District Judges if required to assist in the examination of witnesses and with the assurance to complete their work and submit their final report within 6 months of their constitution.

viii. That the Government of Tamil Nadu is able to address the NHRC to reopen its case in Case No.907/22/41/2018 stating clearly that the facts stated before it by the Principal Secretary to the Govt. of Tamil Nadu (FAC), Public (Law & Order-D) Dept., Chennai vide communication dated 06.09.18 were contrary to the truth; that the CBI is yet to file its charge sheet on the officials even after almost two years and nine months; that the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission of Inquiry will need another 2 years for completing its mandate if it works at the same pace; and hence that it was of utmost importance that the NHRC makes public the report of its investigation team that went to Thoothukudi and submitted a complete report and proceed on the basis of the same. This is the duty that the new Government owes to the citizens of Thoothukudi because this is the only independent report that is available and yet not made public since the case was closed by the NHRC.

ix. People’s Watch calls upon the new Government to ensure that even while the appeal is pending in the apex court, the following criminal prosecutions and action are initiated without any further delay on matters relating to green belt, land fraud, air pollution monitoring, Sampling of Copper Concentrate Ore, hospital, Comprehensive Environmental Audit and Mass Balance, slag, slag disposal (unauthorized), Slag Disposal (Unapproved Use), Zero Liquid Discharge, false declaration regarding quantum of copper production, Unaccounted for ESP Dust, Unauthorised disposal of Scrubber Cake, Unauthorised disposal of ETP Slime/Nickel Sludge, Gypsum Disposal under provisions of the Air Act and Water Act.

- Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch

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