Collector was not even present during crisis, says petitioner

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday asked the State to submit reports, videos and other documentary evidence pertaining to the anti-Sterlite protests prior to the Thoothukudi riots, which took place on the 100th day of the protests.

A division bench of Justices C.T. Selvam and A.M. Basheer Ahamed also sought Intelligence reports of the Thoothukudi police. The State has been directed to submit its reports on July 18.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate A.W.D. Tilak of Thoothukudi, who sought a copy of the Section 144 CrPC order (prohibitory order) clamped in parts of the city during the anti-Sterlite protests.

Advocate Henri Tiphagne, representing the petitioner, said that the order was restricted to two police station limits: Sipcot and Thoothukudi South. For 99 days, the protests were peaceful, he said.

He said a peace committee meeting held in Thoothukudi did not include those who had raised their voices against Sterlite Copper, nor were the minutes of the meeting published.

The Collector was not even present in Thoothukudi at the time of such a crisis, he said.

The residents of Thoothukudi were being put to much hardship as people were being detained by the police. Even juveniles were being targeted. The midnight knocks on the doors were continuing. Multiple cases were being filed against individuals, he added.

People were being illegally detained at the Vallanadu firing range. He added that the people of Thoothukudi had a right to mourn their dear ones, which they were not being allowed to do.

Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian said that an equal number of policemen were injured while trying to control the mob during the riots.

The court also heard other petitions connected to the riots which included public interest litigation petitions and the habeas corpus petitions filed seeking a restraint against the authorities from invoking the National Security Act, 1980. The cases have been adjourned for further hearing on July 18.

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