Terming the registration of criminal case against Poonthota Ranganayaki (60) from Guntur by the CID as a ‘brazen attack on free speech’, the Human Rights Forum (HRF) on Wednesday demanded immediate withdrawal of the case.
Ms. Ranganayaki was booked under Sections 153A, 188, 120B and 505(2) of IPC and Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2008 for sharing a post on Facebook expressing doubts on the probe being conducted into the gas leak incident at LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam.
“The case against Ms. Ranganayaki tells it all about the intolerance by those in power, undermining rights to differ, debate and dissent guaranteed by the Constitution. These are quintessential rights necessary for the sustenance of a democratic society,” said HRF State General Secretary K. Sudha here on Wednesday.
Ms. Ranganayaki shared a post raising twenty questions about the method of probe in the gas leak incident which claimed 12 lives and left hundreds hospitalised. It also caused physical and mental trauma and dislocation of thousands of people in and around R.R. Venkatapuram, said HRF State vice-president Sivanageswara Rao. “The questions raised by Ms. Ranganayaki are pertinent,” he said.
According to HRF members, it is an admitted fact that the A.P. Pollution Control Board (APPCB) had granted Consent to Operate (CTO) to LG Polymers though the plant did not obtain the mandatory environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC).
“Running a plant without clearance is an act of criminal negligence and the management is culpable for the human loss, injury and trauma. Ever since the disaster, the government functionaries have been speaking about compensation but there is not a word about criminal liability of the firm,” said Ms. Sudha.
HRF members said that the police had not arrested a single person even 13 days after the incident. “The gas leak is a corporate crime and the offenders are to be brought to justice. Shipping of styrene which is a vital piece of evidence to South Korea does raise serious questions,” said V.S. Krishna of HRF and sought to know about are the police collecting material evidence and what are the measures being taken by the investigating agency to prevent tampering of evidence.It is ironic that a case is registered against a concerned person who raises these important questions. Registering of an FIR on LG will not suffice, there has to be criminal liability, he said.