The Madras High Court on Tuesday asked the Tamil Nadu government and the Central Bureau of Investigation to file their responses on a plea seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pollachi serial sexual assault and blackmail case, PTI reported.
On March 15, two advocates had moved the Supreme Court to seek a court-monitored inquiry into the case. They also asked the court to transfer the case out of the state.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani and Justice M Duraiswamy passed the direction after the petition sought a High Court-monitored probe and accused the state government of “carelessly handling” the case, Bar & Bench reported. The government action had prevented victims of sexual assault from speaking out and approaching the police, it said.
The petition said that the state government had made public the name of the survivor and had “ignored the fundamentals of justice”. “No person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc, the name of the victim or even in remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large,” said the petition.
Coimbatore Superintendent of Police R Pandiarajan had mentioned the complainant’s name during a press briefing, while Tamil Nadu Home Secretary Niranjan Mardi had identified her in a government notification transferring the investigation in the case to the CBI. Last week, the Madras High Court had ordered the state government to pay Rs 25 lakh to the complainant for revealing her identity.
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 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 petition on Tuesday submitted that the Director General of Police had recommended a CBI probe since the case involved technical issues, including analysis of social media accounts. The Tamil Nadu government on March 13 had transferred the case to the CBI.
The High Court posted the petition for further hearing on April 10.
Almost all shops and other commercial establishments in Pollachi remained closed on Tuesday in support of a call given by various organisations seeking a court-monitored probe into the sexual assault and harassment case.