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HC quashes case against Cyclone Gaja-hit protestors; says was an act in desperation

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: July 23, 2019  | 20:42 IST

Chennai, Jul 23 (PTI) The Madras High Court has quashed the FIRs against over 90 people who protested against "tardy relief" in the aftermath of Gaja cyclone last year, saying it was an act in desperation by those deprived of basic necessities and cannot be treated as a routine criminal case. The court, however, refused to allow another batch of petitions seeking to quash the FIR registered against 52 other people charged with offences including assault of police personnel and causing damage to public property during the protest at a village in Nagapattinam district. Granting relief to 92 people, Justice N Anand Venkatesh quashed the proceedings pending before a lower court in Vedaranyam against them for staging demonstration at Thalaignayiru village on November 18, 2018, days after the cyclone hit the region leaving a trail of destruction. They staged the agitation against the alleged failure on part of the Tamil Nadu government to provide relief material in time. The judge said the protest happened on the spur of the moment when people deprived of their basic necessities lost their sense of balance and acted out of desperation. Noting that there was no material to show any pre-meditation or criminal intent on part of the agitators, he said this was an extraordinary case where the court cannot deal with it like a routine criminal matter. Making the petitioners face criminal prosecution for one solitary incident that took place under an extreme situation would amount to abuse of process of the court, he said. "In view of the findings, this court is inclined to interfere with the proceedings in two cases pending before the lower court and they are hereby quashed," the judge said. He rejected the prayer of other batch of petitioners, saying the court should not unwittingly bring down the morale of the police force by making them think it had leaned in favour of the accused in spite of sufficient material available against them to proceed further. State public prosecutor A Natarajan told the judge that 13 policemen were beaten up black and blue by the agitators, who also damaged vehicles, including a state-run transport corporation bus. The FIR was registered against the 52 people under various sections of the IPC and the Tamil Nadu Public Property Prevention of Damage and Loss Act, and a final report had been filed before the lower court after investigation. Natarajan also said that if the accused were to be simply let off, it would demoralise the entire police force. The judge said this was a tricky case since this court on the one hand, looks at the extraordinary situation under which the incident had taken place, and on the other, the manner in which the police force were taken to task while discharging their duty by the accused. It is now a well-settled position of law that even a strong suspicion is enough to frame charges against the accused, based on some material collected during investigation, and this court should, in such cases, be very slow in interfering with the proceedings, he said. Hence, this court is not inclined to interfere with the proceedings pending against the petitioners, the judge said and dismissed their petitions. He, however, said they were at liberty to raise all the grounds before the lower court, and it shall consider them on its own merits and in accordance with law. PTI COR NVG VS SRY

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