MADURAI BENCH OF MADRAS HC PROTEST AGAINST STERLITE PLANT IS PART OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTY4 min read

BY- KRISHNA SRIDHAR

Judges M. Duraiswamy and K. Muralishankar of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court concluded that there is a major difference between saying that a person is against the government and that person is against the policies of the government protests. The court heard a motion from K Siva, a law graduate. When he tried to apply for membership in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry Bar Association, he was told that they would not admit him. A police verification report against Siva mentioned that 88 criminal cases were registered against him between 2017 and 2019. Most of these cases occurred after the May 22, 2018 demonstrations in Thoothukudi, in which the closure of the Vedanta’s Sterlite copper factory had caused air and water pollution and human health hazards. Thirteen people died during the protests that day when the police opened fire on them. After the protests, the Tamil Nadu government orders the closure of the plant. The Madras Supreme Court upheld the state government shutdown order on August 18, 2020. Although appeals were preferred, the Supreme Court refused to issue a restraining order to reopen the plant.

Madurai Bench has argued that the obligations of the state in protecting the environment are fundamentally the rights of the people. The Bench relied on Article 51A (g) of Part IVA (Fundamental Duties), which addresses the duty to protect and enhance the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for the living beings. A liberal interpretation of article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the constitution allowed the bench to defend this right to an environment free from disease and infection. The bench noted that the petitioner is not charged in the charges brought by the CBI in relation to the 88 FIRs after the Thoothukudi incident. The petitioner also participated in another student protest in Chennai in which he called for the closure of the Sterlite plant. The protest alleged that the students prevented the police from fulfilling their public duties. In paragraph 22 of the Decision, the Bench stated that the student protest or demonstration was effectively fulfilling its fundamental duty in accordance with Article 48A of the Constitution.

The bench relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in a case that the mere fact that the petitioner was a member of a group stood outside a liquor store shouting slogans does not make him guilty of a crime, since the group it only gives the state the It is necessary to demonstrate the need to follow the guiding principles of state policy enshrined in article 47 of the Constitution. In another case registered by the Tirunelveli Junction police station, the petitioner was accused of meeting with 18 other people under the banner of “popular power” without prior authorization to protest against the Union government for the ban on the sale of beef. . The bench reminded the police that all citizens have the right to comment on government policies and to have their own views on those policies. The bench found that not even the Public Ministry had accused the petitioner of having committed acts of violence.

The bench found that 81 cases related to the Thoothukudi incident had been referred to the CBI, which is not a party to the court, and the defendants have refused to admit the petitioner as counsel without receiving a report from the CBI. Therefore, the board determined that the petitioner had been wrongly denied admission to the bar association and ordered the defendants to register him at the next available opportunity. The defendants, in this case, defended the denial of registration to the petitioner on the grounds that the Supreme Court had instructed them in a previous case to review the criminal records of the applicants for registration on grounds of nobility and the purity of the profession. not to be tainted by the intrusion of antisocial elements. However, the bench asked if it is possible for a person to be present and involved in the commission of crimes in 88 locations on the same day without a criminal conspiracy charge because the name of the petitioner cannot be found in one location of the 88 registered FIRs. for the May 22, 2018 incidents. Thoothukudi police could not prove how the petitioner was involved in the 88 cases, the bench found. The Supreme Court decision that emphasizes that the right to protest is inextricably linked to the basic duties of a citizen will have significant value as a legal precedent.

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