Thoothukudi shootings: Aruna Jagadeesan Commission recommends withdrawal of ‘bogus’ cases and payment of compensation to victims of police torture
The One-Member Commission led by Judge Aruna Jagadeesan investigating the anti-Sterlite protest and police shootings that claimed the lives of 14 people on May 22-23, 2018 in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, recommended that the government “Withdraws 244 prosecutions against 400 young people, all aged between 18 and 35, illegally detained after the police shootings of May 22”.
Aruna Jagadeesan, former Madras High Court judge, submitted a 35-page interim report with a four-part annex of supporting evidence, such as video footage and other documents, to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, at the State Secretariat in Chennai in May. 14 2021, in the presence of Secretary General V. Irai Anbu. She briefed the Chief Minister on the gist of her interim report, which contained far-reaching suggestions and recommendations, including the payment of adequate compensation to victims of police torture.
Young people who had been illegally arrested and detained after the disturbances of public order in Thoothukudi and the surrounding villages could neither continue their education nor keep their jobs. “Ninety-four young people and boys were taken to the Vallanadu police firing range near Thoothukudi and tortured. All of these cases were just “pick and choose”. They should receive “ certificates of no objection ” from the law enforcement authorities who illegally detained them and named them in First Information Reports (FIRs) so that they can to continue their studies and their jobs in addition to obtaining visas and passports ”, she declared to the Chief Minister.
She also pointed out that the jobs offered by the previous government to the 19 relatives and relatives of those who had been killed in the police shootings did not match their diplomas. “They were low-key jobs like assistants in VAO [Village Administrative Officer] offices and cooks in Anganwadi centers. Many of them have degrees, including engineering, ”a source told the Commission. The source claimed that the commission recommended 20 lakh rupees as compensation to the family of Justin (29), who was seriously injured in a police action in May 2018 and died after five months. medical treatment.
[After the firing and violence on May 22 and 23, 2018, the police had picked up many innocent youths and boys and detained them in unknown places before subjecting them to third degree torture. They took away youths in the age group of 18-30 forcefully from their beds and none of them was produced in court for two full days until the court intervened following a petition from advocates in Thoothukudi.]
Judge Aruna Jagadeesan said Frontline that the main part of the investigation, to be continued now, would involve the police, the tax authorities and other important agents involved in the police shootings and other subsequent events. “I have met around 700 people so far and have recorded their statements. I visited the homes of those killed in police gunfire, except for the one whose home was located in Usilampatti in Madurai district. I interacted with them and instilled confidence in their minds. They are all totally devastated. They have expressed their grievances, ”she said.
In its 27 sessions to date, the Commission has called 1,052 people and examined 719 witnesses, in addition to examining 1,126 documents, including 71 Central Bureau of Investigation indictments against 440 people in two lots. The CBI is also conducting an investigation in accordance with the court direction.
All India Government Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was forced to appoint the Commission after facing strong public resentment against the police brutality that was unleashed on civilians during the anti-Sterlite protests. A few media reports claimed that the interim report was ready last year and that despite repeated reminders of the Commission’s willingness to submit it, the then AIADMK government had not responded. The report was submitted on May 14, after Chief Minister MK Stalin’s office inquired about the progress of the investigation on May 13.
The mandate of the Commission was to investigate the causes and circumstances leading to the opening of a fire resulting in the death and injury of persons on May 22, 2018 in Thoothukudi, including damage to public and private property. . The issue was whether appropriate force was being used as the circumstances warranted and whether all prescribed procedures had been followed prior to opening fire. It was also asked to verify whether the police had committed excesses there and, if so, to propose measures against them.
The Sterlite Industries smelter plant in Thoothukudi that people protested against for environmental reasons has remained closed since April 9, 2018, following the Pollution Control Board’s refusal to issue a Certificate of Consent to Operate (CTO) due to management’s failure to comply with environmental concerns. The factory was closed permanently following public disturbances during a rally against the factory and the killing of 14 civilians in police gunfire on May 22 and 23, 2018.