The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday asked Thoothukudi District Collector Sandeep Nanduri to cancel his order detaining an anti-Sterlite protester under the National Security Act even after the court had allowed him bail, reported PTI. The division bench comprising Justices CT Selvam and AM Basheer Ahmed was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by advocate G Hari Raghavan’s wife Sathiyabama.

“Any person who did not commit a crime should not be punished,” the court said. “The collector should not accept whatever the police say and sign [on detention orders]. Your signature could affect the freedom of an individual. Do not act like this in future and respect the judicial orders.”

The court had issued summons to Nanduri earlier on Tuesday. During the hearing, the bench had asked if Tamil Nadu was a police state or a democracy.

Raghavan along with another lawyer Vanchinathan were “accused of engineering the violence” that led to the police firing on anti-Sterlite protestors on May 22, according to Sathiyabama’s petition, Deccan Chronicle reported.

The bench dismissed their anticipatory bail petitions, following which police arrested Vanchinathan. He was subsequently granted bail.

On July 6, Raghavan surrendered before the judicial magistrate in Madurai and he was remanded in all 91 cases against him. On July 24, Raghavan was granted bail on the condition that he will not take party in anti-Sterlite protests for 90 days.

However, on July 26, the district collector passed an order detaining Raghavan under National Security Act. Sathiyabama said the detention order was passed with a malicious intention to defeat the bail order issued by the court.

99% chemicals cleared from Sterlite plant

The district collector has said that 99% of sulphuric acids, phosphoric acids and other chemicals have been cleared from Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in the last 27 days. “Only certain chemicals that are at the bottom of the tank and, that cannot be sucked haven’t been cleared, Mint quoted Nanduri as saying on Monday. “These will be neutralised inside the Sterlite campus.”

The collector’s statement came the same day that the National Green Tribunal refused to grant an interim stay on the state government’s order to shut down the plant.

Thirteen people agitating against the expansion of the smelter were killed in police firing on May 22 and May 23 – prompting the state government to permanently shut down the plant days later. Several people were arrested for rioting, burning vehicles on the collectorate campus, stone pelting and damaging public property. Large-scale protests began in Thoothukudi in February, and May 22 was the 100th day of the agitation.