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Madras HC Orders TN Govt to Pay 25L Ex-gratia for Revealing Name of Pollachi Sexual Assault Victim

The court has asked the government to withdraw the said order transferring the case to CBI and release a fresh one without revealing the identity of the victim.


Updated:March 16, 2019, 8:53 AM IST
Madras HC Orders TN Govt to Pay 25L Ex-gratia for Revealing Name of Pollachi Sexual Assault Victim
Picture for representation.

Chennai: The Madurai bench of the Madras High court on Friday came down heavily on Tamil Nadu government for its callousness in handling the Pollachi sexual harassment case. The court ordered the government to pay Rs. 25 lakhs to the victim as compensation, after it revealed her name in an order on Wednesday transferring the case to the CBI.

The court has also directed the government to take disciplinary action against Coimbatore SP R Pandiarajan for disclosing the identity of the victim, informing about the number of videos and number of accused, in the preliminary stage of the investigation, in a press conference.

"Great damage has been caused to the victim and therefore, the victim has to be compensated," the court ordered pointing out that the circulation of the offending videos related to the case is also an offence.

Law prohibits the publishing of any detail that may help in identifying a sexual assault/harassment, rape victim.

The court has asked the government to withdraw the said order transferring the case to CBI and release a fresh one without revealing the identity of the victim.

But the damage has already been done. The details of the victim has been widely circulated. A video, purportedly of another victim, sourced from the phone of the accused has also been leaked, even as the victim continues to stay indoors.

It was on February 12th that the victim, a 19-year-old girl from Pollachi was allegedly sexually harassed by Sabarirajan and his three aides - Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish and Vasanthkumar. Sabarirajan had allegedly befriended the victim through Thirunavukkarasu who the victim was friends with through her friend. Thirunavukkarasu, an MBA graduate is a financer, Sabarirajan, a BE graduate and other two accompany him.

Sabarirajan called the victim to meet her at a common place. The former came in a car with Thirunavukkarasu, asked her to join them on the way. Once she got in, two others - Sathish and Vasanthkumar too got in. The four allegedly tried to strip her and video recorded the same and also stole her chain, according to the victim's lawyer S Gopalakrishnan.

The victim's brother who learnt about the incident a few days later tracked the four with his friends, confiscated their phones, the videos in which showed there were other women victims.

The gang's modus operandi is said to be befriending women, getting into physical relationship with them consensually or forcibly, video recording the act without the knowledge of the victim and then blackmailing the women for money or sexual favours.

The police say the gang may have been involved in this for more than five years now but the number of victims is not clear. The phones have been sent to the forensic team to retrieve any lost/deleted videos.

On February 24, the victim filed a police complaint. FIR was registered against the four under sections of sexual harassment, assault or use of criminal force to women with intent to disrobe, robbery and violation of privacy. All except Thirunavukkarasu were arrested and remanded in judicial custody.

Following this, the victim's brother was allegedly threatened and assaulted. On February 26, a complaint was filed by the victim's brother and the FIR named four - Senthil, Babu, Manivannan and Vasanthkumar (not the accused part of the sexual harassment case). The accused were arrested and later released on bail.

The case took a major political turn when the police arrested Nagaraj, a local AIADMK worker, for the assault case. The judicial magistrate let him off on bail as his name did not figure in the FIR. He was expelled from the party.

However, the local MLA and deputy speaker Pollachi Jayaraman was accused of shielding the accused, by the opposition parties some even claiming that his son was involved in the sex scandal. Consequent to the political turn of events, the victim and her brother were forced to publish audio and video statements respectively clearing his name and pleading to not politicize the case.

Meanwhile, one of the videos said to be originally from the accused phone was leaked on several platforms and widely circulated.

On March 1, Coimbatore SP R Pandiarajan revealed the name of the victim in a press conference. Following this, on March 6, the police released a statement with details of the victim. On March 12, the victim submitted a petition before the district collector stating that her identity must be protected and pleading that the case not be used politically.

For a third time, the victim's identity was made public through a government order transferring the case to the CBI. The victim's name, brother's name and her college was published violating the privacy of the victim yet again.

The case is currently being investigated by the CB-CID who took in alleged kingpin Thirunavukkarasu into their custody on Friday. The other three continue to be in judicial custody while a video which seems to have been shot by locals show Sabarirajan and Thirunavukkarasu confessing to the said offences sitting amidst a group of men who are heard questioning and threatening them. CNN News18 could not independently verify the video. The accused suggest there are many more women who could be victims to their modus operandi.

But with the government publishing the identity of the one victim who filed a complaint instead of protecting it, the many more women who may be victims of the scandal may now never come forward.

| Edited by: Aditya Sharma
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