National human rights panel may reopen Thoothukudi firing case

Police dispersing a group of anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi.File photo

Police dispersing a group of anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi.File photo  

Commission chief says he will consider rights activist’s review petition

The full bench of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday said it would consider a review petition seeking to reopen its suo motu proceedings into the police firing incident in Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018 in which 13 persons were killed. They were protesting against the Sterlite copper smelting plant in the district.

NHRC chairperson Justice H.L. Dattu said he would see that the case is taken up at the earliest. The Commission had in October last year closed the suo motu proceedings.

Soon after the full bench convened the open hearing on Friday, Madurai-based human rights activist Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch, rose to make a mention of the case and pointed out that such a sensitive case was not listed for hearing in Friday’s cause list. He also pointed out despite various probes by various agencies, besides the Commission of Inquiry constituted into the incident, “not a single person has been identified as accused in connection with the incident”.

Referring to the suo motu proceedings initiated by the NHRC soon after the incident, which was followed by a visit of the Commission’s investigation wing to Thoothukudi, Mr. Tiphagne said it was quite unfortunate that the Commission closed the case after receiving a report from Tamil Nadu government.Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam and Director General of Police J.K. Tripathy were also present during the hearing.

When Justice Dattu said it would not be possible for the Commission to reopen a case that was closed and the only way to reopen it was through a review petition, Mr. Tiphagne pointed out that he had filed a review petition December last year and again earlier this year. Though the activist insisted on hearing the case, the bench maintained it can be heard only in Delhi.

When the activist sought to know when the issue would be taken up again, Mr. Dattu said he would see that “it is taken up at the earliest.” The chairperson also said if the Commission found Mr. Tiphagne’s presence absolutely necessary for the hearing of the case, he would be informed.

Along with Justice Dattu, its members Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant, Jyotika Kalra and Dnyaneshwar Manohar Mulay heard a total of 10 important cases from the State.

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