In a setback to Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department (CBCID), the Madras High Court has granted a stay in the case against Nirmala Devi and two others, the trial for which was supposed to start in the Srivilliputhur court in Virudhunagar district. The court has also expressed doubts about the investigation.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by Suganthi, the General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). In her petition, she had alleged irregularities in the investigation carried out in the case. She stated that many other people apart from Nirmala Devi were also involved in the case but the investigating team has deliberately omitted these names. She also told the court that the police has not investigated those for whom Nirmala Devi was allegedly soliciting sexual favours from the students or revealed the identity of those officers. Adding that the police was referring to the people for whom Nirmala Devi was allegedly seeking favours as ‘higher officials’, Suganthi stated that a lot of officers in the university and in the Department of higher education fall within the term ‘higher officials.
Nirmala Devi, a former Assistant Professor at an arts college in Aruppukottai, was arrested for trying to lure girl students for providing sexual favours in exchange for money and academic prospects. She was arrested in April 2018 after an audio clip of her talking to students was leaked, in which she can be heard asking them to do certain things 'secretly' for a very senior official of the Madurai Kamaraj University to which the college is affiliated. Assistant professor V Murugan and former research scholar Karuppusamy who were named as co-accused were granted bail by the Supreme Court
Suganthi alleged that the CBCID has submitted final report to the Srivilliputhur court without conducting proper inquiry and requested the High Court to interfere in the matter. Seeking transfer of the case to the CBI, Suganthi requested the High Court to grant an interim stay to the case in Srivilliputhur court.
This petition was heard by a division bench consisting of justices Kirubakaran and Sundar. The judges made a remark that in the audio clip which was first leaked, Nirmala Devi had told the girls that she was talking on behalf of higher officials but so far only Nirmala Devi, Murugan and Karuppasamy have been considered as accused. The bench also observed that the CBCID has submitted final report to Srivilliputhur Mahila Court after investigating just the three accused despite Nirmala Devi claiming that many other higher officials were also involved. The judges also asked if there is was any problem in granting bail to Nirmala Devi.
When people accused of murder are granted bail, why hasn’t Nirmala Devi been given bail yet?, the judges asked.
While Murugan and Karuppasamy, the other accused in the case, have been granted bail by the Supreme Court, Nirmala Devi’s bail application has been rejected multiple times by the court.