Leaked probe report on Thoothukudi firing exposes India’s judiciary, police system

New Delhi, August 29 (KMS): The role of Indian judiciary and police is being questioned particularly after a leaked probe report by Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission on Thoothukudi firing in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Commission’s report blamed policemen for using “excessive lethal force” and opening fire “unprovoked” at “fleeing protesters” due to which 13 people had died. Violence erupted in the last week of May 2018 in Thoothukudi coinciding with the 100th day of a peaceful civil protest by locals against Sterlite Corporation’s smelter plant in their town. Several hundred protesters were arrested and faced harassment by Police. Internet was also suspended in the district from 23-28 May 2018, for the very first time in Tamil Nadu.

The opposition to the plant was due to ecological damage the plant would result in, according to the protesters.

A commission was constituted by the then All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government, with Justice Jagadeeshan, a former judge of Madras high court, as its head to probe the firing.

The Commission’s report– which has been kept under wraps since May this year when it was submitted to the Tamil Nadu government – indicted policemen of using “excessive lethal force” and opening fire “unprovoked” at “fleeing protesters”.

The findings of the leaked report were first published by Frontline and were also carried by The Wire subsequently. Although the report was submitted to the M.K. Stalin-led government in May, it has not been tabled so far in the state assembly.

The legal issue pertains to the fact the probe findings of the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission are starkly different from a report earlier submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which carried out its own probe on the directives of the Madras high court.

The CBI had chargesheeted 71 protesters and only one policeman while the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission called for stern action against 17 top police officials and no protester has been named. Given that CBI had already filed a first information report (FIR), there cannot be another FIR for the same crime, now based on the Commission report.

The comments of a judge on the report are very interesting. “The government can accept the findings and order a departmental inquiry against the officers indicted by the commission. The government can also choose to partly accept the findings of the report, or they can reject the findings of the commission altogether,” M. Radhakrishnan of the Madras high court told the media.

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