The Principal Sessions Court in Chennai on Tuesday, February 6, dismissed the bail application of DMK MLA I Karunanithi's son Anto Mathivanan and daughter-in-law Merlina. The two are accused of abusing and assaulting Anu* (name changed), a Dalit girl who was working for them as a domestic help. After the horrific issue came to light, a case was registered against them under the Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act. The couple had attempted to evade arrest and went on the run, but were finally tracked down in Andhra Pradesh by Tamil Nadu police on January 25 and were sent to judicial remand until February 9.
The first hearing for the couple’s bail application was held on February 2 and then adjourned so that all concerned parties could file their responses. On February 6, Judge Ali who was hearing the case, accepted the police’s argument that the investigation was still underway and denied bail to the couple. They are now likely to approach the Madras High Court for bail, reports say.
Anu was 17 years old when she started to work as a house help at Anto and Merlina’s residence to save money for attending coaching classes for NEET. When TNM spoke to her and accessed the FIR in January this year, it was revealed that Anu faced continuous harassment and assault by Merlina. The girl was beaten, burnt with cigarettes and physically assaulted, the FIR shows.
Anu was even threatened not to reveal the abuse she had faced during her stay in the couple’s residence in Chennai’s Thiruvanmiyur. Further, she was allegedly coerced into signing papers saying that she owed the couple Rs 2 lakh that ‘was paid’ for her education and that she would continue to work for them for the next three years. The abuse came to light only when she was admitted to the Ulundurpet Government Hospital in Kallakurichi and Anu's mother found cigarette burns, injuries, and contusions on her body and face.
Activists however say that the FIR has been watered down. According to them, the sections of the Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act that have been evoked are inadequate given the extent of abuse Anu was subjected to. The FIR has currently been registered under IPC 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) , and sections 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(s) (punishment for offences atrocities) under the PoA Act.