The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday transferred the investigation of the Sterlite protest to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

During the people’s protest on 22 and 23 May against Sterlite Copper Ltd ~ a copper smelter unit ~ owned by Vedanta Group in Thoothukudi, police firing claimed 13 lives.

The Division Bench consisting of Justices C T Selvam and Basheer Ahmed asked the CBI to complete the probe in four months. The protests staged by various organisations at Thoothukudi demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper Ltd turned violent on 22 May which led to police firing. While 12 persons lost their lives on 22 May, the next day saw one more agitator falling to police bullets in the same place.

The police had arrested six volunteers of Makkal Adhikaram, a Left-wing outfit, in connection with the rioting, under the National Security Act. The Court quashed the order detaining all the six persons.

The Court said that a probe by the CBI would instil confidence in the minds of the people. All the Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu had demanded an investigation by the CBI into the rioting and subsequent police firing.

There were allegations by some of the independent organisations that the police firing was uncalled for and there were many instances of human rights violations at Thoothukudi.

A probe by a group of human rights activists, retired judges and former police officials alleged that there were large-scale police brutalities against the peaceful agitations.