Chennai: The Madras High Court today directed the Tamil Nadu government to abide by the Supreme Court direction to withdraw cases filed against those opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).
The court, however, refused to stay the functioning of the power plant.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has been protesting against the project, welcomed the judgment and hoped that the state government would withdraw the cases soon.
City-based advocate P Pugalenthi filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to know what action the state government had taken to comply with the Supreme Court direction to withdraw all cases filed against the protestors, so that peace and normalcy was restored.
The top court said that after normalcy was restored, steps should be taken to educate the people about the necessity of the project, which is in the interest of the nation, particularly Tamil Nadu.
According to Pugalenthi, more than 300 cases have been filed by the Tirunelveli police against the protestors over a period of 650 days.
He said the number of cases is less than the actual number of people charged, as police clubbed thousands of people in a single case.
Reacting to the high court verdict, M Pushparayan, a key person in PMANE, told IANS: "We welcome the court verdict. We hope the state government will withdraw the cases at the earliest."
He said several cases had been filed against the protestors under the heads of waging war against the nation, and sedition.
"The KNPP is a civil nuclear power project. How can the police file cases for sedition and waging war against the nation against the protestors? For that matter, even the Tamil Nadu government has stalled gas pipeline and gas exploration projects in the state after farmers protested," Pushparayan said.
India's atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of 1,000 Megawatt each.
The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001.
Fearing for their safety in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam plant, under the banner of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), have been opposing the project.
City-based environmental activist G Sundarrajan filed a case in the apex court demanding that the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for NPCIL, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the central environment and forests ministry, Tamil Nadu government and the state pollution control panel.
Meanwhile, the first unit at KNPP started nuclear fission July 13.