Son and daughter-in-law of the DMK MLA
Son and daughter-in-law of the DMK MLA

Dalit girl assaulted by DMK MLA’s family: Activists accuse cops of watering down FIR

TNM accessed the FIR which says that the accused deliberately tortured the survivor by hurting her private parts. Though the acts amount to sexual assault, IPC sections to this effect are missing in the FIR.

TW: Sexual and physical assault

The son and daughter-in-law of Pallavaram DMK MLA I Karunanithi are in the dock for allegedly torturing and inflicting severe physical and sexual assault on an 18-year-old Dalit girl, who was employed as a housekeeper at their Chennai residence. Thiruvanmiyur police have filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the accused persons, Anto and Merlina, largely outlining Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections concerning criminal intimidation, voluntarily inflicting hurt, and punishment for offensive atrocities under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. But sections under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act have been omitted, although the survivor was abused from the age of 17. Activists point out that sexual assault sections are also missing from the FIR and the SC/ST Act sections cited are inadequate, given the extent of the torture that the girl has alleged

TNM accessed the said FIR, in which the complainant Anu (name changed) has detailed how the accused Merlina forced her to disrobe, before repeatedly hitting her on her private parts. Anu also said that Merlina often subjected her to violence at home, including by attacking her with utensils. The complaint said she also once made Anu clean out leftovers from the sink using her mouth and made her eat chillies as a punishment. The accused also turned the CCTV cameras off before allegedly committing these acts that amounted to sexual assault and torture.

Thiruvanmiyur police’s FIR, which was filed on January 18, mentions sections 294(b) (obscene acts), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 506(1) (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC, and sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) (punishment for offences atrocities) under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act. 

Read: Dalit girl alleges assault by DMK MLA’s family in Chennai

“This is a weak FIR,” said activist Kathir from Evidence, a Human Rights NGO. “Sections of PoA are inadequate. Only sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) of the Act have been evoked. The FIR should have also evoked section 3(2)(v) of the PoA, given the extent of torture inflicted on the girl. Further, IPC sections 319 (hurt), 320 (grievous hurt), and 354 (whoever assaults or uses criminal force to outrage the modesty of a woman) should have also been invoked. This FIR is a clear indication of dereliction of duty by the police,” he said.

Read: 5 days after Dalit girl alleged assault by DMK MLA’s son & wife, no arrests made

AB Karl Marx Siddharthar, advocate and publisher, said Section 3(1)(e) under the PoA Act is also applicable, since the survivor has said that she was assaulted after being asked to remove all her clothes. “It was not just Anto and Merlina who inflicted atrocities on the girl. It has also been done by the Investigative Officer (IO) who neglected their duty and filed a complete eyewash of an FIR. Action must be initiated against the IO as per Section 4 of the SC/ST act,” he added. 

Kathir also pointed out that the survivor was made to sign a document according to which she would work for Anto and Merlina for a span of three years, under the pretext of them having spent Rs 2 lakh on her education. “The police should also book the accused under the Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act,” he said.

Noting that the survivor was a minor until a month ago, child rights activist Devaneyan said the accused should be booked under both POCSO and the Juvenile Justice Act. “Besides subjecting her to cruelty and torture, they have also violated her need of care and protection. Also, even after the media reported on the incident, the police waited to file an FIR. Their excuse was that they hadn’t received a complaint from the survivor. Why should they wait? The police can take suo-motu action. Would they have waited if the survivor was, say, the grandchild of the DMK MLA?” he asked. 

Devaneyan added that the family of the girl should also be offered protection by the government, and further demanded that the state support her higher education.

TNM contacted Neelankarai’s Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), A Bharath, who said that sexual assault sections were not invoked because the accused was a woman. However, IPC Section 354 states that “whoever assaults a woman” to outrage her modesty can be booked. 

The police are also yet to trace the accused duo. “Once we nab the accused who are both absconding, we will get their statements and will add more sections, whichever necessary,” the ACP said.

On Tuesday, January 23, Merlina released an audio statement stating that all the allegations against her and her husband were fake.  Earlier, on Sunday, Anto also released a similar audio statement.

Inputs from Bharathy Singaravel

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