Seven police personnel of the Salem Armed Reserve (AR) were suspended on Wednesday, October 20 for violating protocol and allowing the accused in the Pollachi sexual assault case to meet their family members when they were being escorted back to the Salem prison from the Coimbatore Mahila court. Salem Police Commissioner Najmul Hoda ordered the suspension of the seven personnel, which includes Special Sub-Inspector Subramaniam besides other personnel, identified as Karthik, Prabhu, Velkumar, Natrajan, Rajesh and Rajkumar.
In a video that went viral on social media on Wednesday, the van escorting the accused can be seen stopping by the road on the outskirts of Coimbatore and a few relatives of the accused are seen interacting with them. As the video was widely shared, Salem Commissioner Najmul Hoda ordered the suspension of the police personnel involved in the incident.
According to a Times of India report, five prime accused in the case — Sabarirajan, Thirunavukkarasu, Vasanthkumar, Sathish and Manivannan — were present in the van. The accused were shifted from Coimbatore to Salem prison in 2019 after alleged threats in the Coimbatore prison.
The Pollachi sexual assault case came to light when a 19-year-old woman had filed a police complaint in 2019 that four men harassed her, forcibly removed her clothes in a car and videographed the act. Further investigation by the police exposed a larger sexual assault and extortion racket, with officials saying that more than 50 women had been victims of such harassment by a network of men.
The case registered by the Pollachi police on February 24, 2019 led to the arrest of four men initially. Subsequently other accused related to the case were also arrested. As the public outrage grew stronger, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which began its investigation in April 2019. Through the investigation conducted by CBI, a few other accused were arrested, including Pollachi town secretary of the AIADMK student wing, Arulanantham. While ‘Bar’ Nagaraj, an expelled AIADMK functionary, was also named in the case, his name was later dropped due to lack of evidence. The first chargesheet was filed within a month of the CBI taking up the investigation.