The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday transferred the Pollachi serial sexual assault and blackmail case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. On Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu Police had said that the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department has taken over the case.

The case relates to allegations that a gang of four men have been befriending hundreds of women on social media and then sexually molesting them, since 2013. In some cases, the men shot explicit videos of the women and used those to blackmail their victims, police said. Four men – N Satish, N Sabarirajan, T Vasanthakumar and K Thirunavukkarasu – have been arrested in Pollachi in connection with the case. The four are now in judicial custody.

The allegations of the sexual harassment and blackmail racket came to light on February 25, when a 19-year-old college student in Pollachi filed a complaint against them for sexually harassing her. On February 24, the brother of the college student who filed the case got into a scuffle with the four men. When the police intervened, the victim’s brother explained that the accused had embarrassing pictures and videos of his sister.

The state government on Wednesday invoked Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (Consent of State to Exercise of Powers and Jurisdiction), The Hindu reported. The order allows the extension of powers and jurisdiction to members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment throughout Tamil Nadu.

The CBI was handed the case following a proposal by Tamil Nadu Director General of Police TK Rajendran. The police officer wanted the central agency to handle the case as the crime “is extremely serious demanding specialised attention and requiring more laborious and dedicated investigation with technical expertise”.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government’s notification transferring the case to the CBI revealed the name of the complainant. It also contained the name of the college and the identity of her brother. The Supreme Court had in December barred the police from uploading first information reports filed in rape cases on websites, so that the identities of victims are protected.

Students protest in Tamil Nadu

Hundreds of students, lawyers and members of women’s organisations protested in several parts of the state on Wednesday, demanding action against the accused. Students of the government arts colleges in Coimbatore and Tiruppur boycotted classes and staged a protest. In Chennai, over 300 students from various universities demonstrated. As many 250 students of Government Arts College in Tiruvannamalai also held demonstrations.

Meanwhile, lawyers practicing in Coimbatore staged a demonstration outside the court complex. They demanded that a woman judge of the Madras High Court head an investigation into the case.

Members of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, Democratic Youth Federation of India, Students Federation of India, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam formed a human chain in Pudukottai demanding action against the accused.

Most political parties, including the DMK, Communist Party of India, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and actor-politician Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam had on Tuesday demanded justice for the victims.