Chennai: Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth exempted himself on Tuesday from making a personal appearance before a one-man commission, headed by retired judge Aruna Jagadeesan, probing the Thoothukudi violence that killed 13 people in May 2018 during protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter.
The actor’s counsel, advocate Ilambharati, appeared before the commission and urged the latter to hand over the questionnaire so that the actor can file a written response. The actor will now submit his replies through an affidavit. Ilambharati said, “Rajinikanth's plea for an exemption has been accepted. We have received the questionnaire in a sealed cover.”
The commission, however, has said the superstar would not be granted another exemption. Lawyer Arun Vadivel, representing the commission, said summons will be sent to the actor for the next hearing.
“He (Rajinikanth) should be present in person. We have given him the questions at the moment. He has said he will file a response,” Vadivel said.
On Saturday, the actor sought an exemption from appearing before the commission in person. In an affidavit filed by Rajinikanth’s counsel, the actor said his personal appearance could cause inconvenience to the public.
He also said he was busy in a film shoot. He then urged the commission to allow him to send a written response to the commission on its queries in connection with the Thoothukudi violence.
In May 2018, protests in Thoothukudi had taken a violent turn with at least 13 people being killed in alleged police firing. Hundreds were left injured as a mob of 20,000 people went on a rampage demanding the polluting copper unit be shut down.
At the time, Rajinikanth met those injured in the violence at the local government hospital and told local reporters that “anti-social elements” were behind the incident. Later, when the actor was asked about his statement at the Chennai airport, he had said, “Don’t ask me how I know, I know all of that.”
The commission wants to talk to the actor in connection with this statement. The panel, set up by the Tamil Nadu government after the violence subsided, has summoned police officers, employees of Sterlite factory and doctors as part of its investigation.
(With inputs from Neil Nilay Nidhi)