On January 6, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested three more persons, including K. Arulanandham, secretary of the Pollachi town students’ wing of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), from Pollachi in connection with the sexual assault and extortion case that sent shock waves across the country two years ago.
The CBI had already arrested five persons—K. Thirunavukkarasu, N. Sabarirajan alias Rishwanth, N. Sathish, T. Vasanthakumar and R. Manivannan, who surrendered before the Mahila Court—and filed two charge sheets in the case. Besides Arulanandham (34), the others recently arrested are T. Herine Paul (29) and P. Babu (27), all hailing from Pollachi. Following his arrest, Arulanandham was expelled from the primary membership of the AIADMK. All the three arrested were taken to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital for medical examination. Later they were produced before Judge R. Nandhinidevi of the Coimbatore Mahila Court who remanded them to judicial custody.
Cases were registered under Sections 354 A (sexual harassment), 354 B (assault or use of criminal force against woman with intent to disrobe), and 394 (robbery) of the Indian Penal Code, Sec 66 E of the IT Act (violation of privacy) and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.
The case came to light when a 19-year-old girl alleged sexual assault by a gang at a farm house near Pollachi on February 12, 2019. The gang, comprising youths and boys from rich and powerful backgrounds, routinely befriended young girls on social media and lured them to the farmhouse where they were sexually assaulted and videographed, and later blackmailed. This racket had been going on for at least seven years until one girl came forward to register a police complaint. Her complaint led to the unearthing of a major sex and extortion racket.
Initially the Pollachi Town Police registered a case on February 24, 2019, and began investigations. However, the girl who registered a complaint was threatened and the video recordings, seized and retained in safe custody by the Pollachi police as “sensitive evidence”, were leaked on social media.
Even as the investigation remained tardy, the Tamil Nadu government transferred the case to the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) police. A huge public outcry ensued, with the media claiming that the police investigation was not carried out as per law, mainly owing to the alleged involvement of those linked to some powerful politicians in Coimbatore and Pollachi.
Organisations such as the All India Democratic Women's Association staged protests against the police. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi then addressed a public meeting at Pollachi and criticised the AIADMK government for trying to save the “real culprits” in the scandal, since they were politically connected. Under heavy public pressure, the government transferred the case to the CBI. The CBI took up the investigation in March 2019 and filed two first information reports (FIRs), one for sexual harassment and another on a case relating to an assault by the accused on the victim’s brother, in May 2019.