The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has decided to send its own investigation team to conduct an on spot inquiry into the police shooting that killed eleven protesters demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.
As per a press release issued on Tuesday, the Commission has deputed a team headed by an officer not below the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police, assisted by three more officers of the rank of Dy. SP and Inspectors from its Investigation Division.
The team has been directed to examine all concerned, including the family members of the deceased and the injured, as well as independent witnesses, and submit a report within two weeks.
The team was constituted in view of the Delhi High Court order last week, leaving it open to the NHRC to decide on the representation of a lawyer seeking an independent probe into the incident.
The Petitioner, Mr. A. Rajarajan had moved the High Court, alleging that his representation had not been responded to by the NHRC, and demanding urgent intervention in the "unlawful killings". He had further submitted that the situation might worsen if the NHRC does not act immediately, as the evidence might be destroyed.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher had then noted that since the NHRC is already seized of the matter, the Petitioner, Mr. A. Rajarajan should appear before the Commission with his representation.
The incident concerns protests mounted by locals in Thoothukudi against Vedanta's Sterlite Copper Plant and its proposed expansion, alleging that the smelter was polluting the groundwater in the area. An activist group has in fact accused the pollution board of allowing the company to operate its smelter with shorter chimney stacks than permitted which helped the company reduce costs but harmed the environment.
Residents had then taken out a march to the Tuticorin District Collectorate, marking day 100 of the protests. However, the Police responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing eleven protestors and injuring several others.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had then directed Vedanta to stop the construction of Unit II of its Plant. It had ordered that the application of renewal of Environmental Clearance (EC) submitted by Vedanta shall be processed expeditiously after conducting a mandatory public hearing. Further, the authorities were directed to decide the application within a period of four months, i.e. on or before 23 September. Till then, the construction at the plant has been stayed.