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Vizhinjam: Kerala HC pulls up protestors, grants police protection on Adani Ports’ petition

- September 1, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, September 1 (BPNS)

The ongoing fisherfolk protest against the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) suffered a major setback on Thursday as the Kerala High Court observed that the right to protest doesn’t mean the right to obstruct the ongoing construction activities.

Allowing a petition of Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited, the court granted police protection for the employees and workmen indulged in the construction activities of VISL.

Justice Anu Sivaraman, while allowing the petition observed that the right to protest can only mean a right to protest peacefully and there can be no right to obstruct the legally permitted project or activity in the guise of a protest whatever the reason for the protest.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the right to agitate or protest didn’t confer any right to the protestors to obstruct the activities which have due permission or to trespass into the project site and cause damage to public property. Any violation of conditions in the environmental clearance, the complaint can be raised before the competent authorities under the law,” said Anu Sivaraman. 

While granting police protection, the court also instructed the state government that once a situation arises when the state police can’t maintain the law and order in the locality, it should seek appropriate assistance from the Union government.

The fisherfolk protest against the port, spearheaded by the Latin Catholic Archdiocese, is based on a seven-point demand that includes halting the ongoing construction activities.

However, the government’s stance is that construction activities can’t be stopped. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself had stated in the Assembly that except for the demand of halting the project, the fisherfolk could raise any reasonable demand, and the government will look into it.

The state government on the other day had announced that an expert committee will be constituted to address the concerns of the fishermen. The said committee is expected to study the geological and social impact of the project and submit its findings within three months.

While the government’s and Adani Ports’ stance is that the project had all the requisite clearances including that of the National Green Tribunal, the protestors said that their concerns had been overlooked and the project has so far brought sorrow to them.

It was on December 5, 2015, that the construction of the Vizhinjam seaport began. Though the Adani Group promised to complete the works by December 3, 2019, it got postponed several times due to various reasons. Now, as per the revised construction schedule submitted by the group in June 2022, the first phase of the port will be completed in December 2024. However, the state government is of the stance that this should be completed by the end of 2022 or at the beginning of 2023.