"he asked if any college students I knew would listen to me."
Indian professor Nirmala Devi, from Tamil Nadu, was granted unconditional bail on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. This comes almost 11 months after her arrest in a sex case scandal.
The High Court came down heavily on the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) for not allowing her bail.
Devi, who was an assistant professor at Devanga Arts College, lured four female students to give ‘senior’ officials sexual favours in return for better grades and money.
She was temporarily suspended after the administration found out. Devi was later arrested when news of the situation spread and the police were forced to intervene.
The former professor confessed to her role in the ‘sex for degrees’ scandal but she also revealed that she was not the only one involved.
The CB-CID identified a professor named Murugan from Madurai Kamaraj Univerity (MKU) and former research scholar Karuppusamy who were part of the sex scandal. Devi even spoke about Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
She never mentioned their names, so identifying them only makes Nirmala seem easily led as she had sexual relations with both of them.
Devi claimed that she lured her students for them and that they were in regular contact with the Vice Chancellor and Registrar, however, the conversations were secretive.
While Murugan and Karuppusamy were arrested, the CB-CID has not spoken to the VC or Registrar.
There has been a string of sexual abuse cases at MKU so it is surprising that the CB-CID has not questioned VC Chellathurai or Registrar Chinnaiah. Both were mentioned multiple times in Devi’s confession.
She also alleged that her life was in danger while in prison even though Murugan and Karuppusamy were arrested.
The police claim that they were the only three involved, but the crime may actually extend to VC Chellathurai and Registrar Chinnaiah.
It poses the idea that the investigators may have already decided on who was and who wasn’t involved in the case.
It also gives the impression that Devi may have been lured into committing the crime and she has taken the fall for it.
What Did She Do?
The CB-CID submitted a 1,366-page charge sheet in September 2018 where more than 100 witnesses were mentioned.
This included the harassed students, professors from Devanga Arts College and MKU.
Nirmala Devi contacted four of her female students on the orders of Murugan and Karuppusamy.
She advised her students to “adjust” with some officials in return “for getting 85% marks and money”. This implied that Devi was asked them to give the officials sexual favours.
However, Murugan and Karuppusamy were not senior officials and were allegedly requested by the VC and Registrar to tell Devi to make the phone calls.
In her confession, Nirmala met Murugan in 2017 and was told he was an influential figure at MKU.
She wanted to be a part of a refresher course and asked him to give a place. He checked with Registrar Chinnaiah who told Devi to go to Human Resources.
She was unsuccessful but continued to stay in touch with Murugan. The two of them eventually had sex with each other.
Murugan later asked her if her daughter “will come” and Nirmala refused. The confession stated:
“Following this, he asked if any college students I knew would listen to me.”
This statement may have been in relation to the students being contacted to provide sexual favours.
Nirmala claims to have said that the “situation in college was not right”. She may have initially refused to take part in the sex scandal as she was aware that there had been several sexual abuse cases at the university.
There was no mention about what Murugan offered her in return, but it may be her place on the course as she got onto it in March 2018.
At the request of the Vice Chancellor and Registrar, Murugan may have manipulated her into being a part of the sex scandal.
A similar thing happened when she met Karuppusamy on her course. He was a friend of Murugan and gave her the impression that he knew senior officials.
Nirmala said she had sex with Karuppusamy, who later asked if she could “arrange” for college girls. Nirmala told Karuppusamy she will try.
According to Nirmala, Karuppusamy did not trust her with his demand for students until she had sex with him.
The assistant professor was pressured by the two men to contact the girls. This is quite common in India, especially among women and girls, who are persuaded to do something in return for something.
Nirmala claimed she was doing it for a senior official and stated that she had access to the Governor but did not know him.
She sent pictures of herself with him to students in the hope of getting them to do what she wanted.
This is a case where Nirmala was supposedly drawn into. Murugan also said he was drawn into the situation by both senior officials.
Nirmala said: “He said he would give me Rs. 5 Lakh to pay my daughter’s fees. He gave me Rs. 50,000 when I asked for a lakh immediately.”
Based on her statement, Nirmala was forced into committing the crime in return for her daughter’s tuition fees.
Despite the VC and Registrar leading the scandal, Nirmala was the one who got arrested.
How She was Caught
Nirmala was initially suspended by the college after an audio clip of her with students went viral on social media.
In the clip, she was heard advising students to “adjust”, which was seen as asking them to give sexual favours.
A complaint was filed and she was suspended. Devi was later arrested in April 2018.
She remained in the Central Prison, Madurai for 11 months as several of her bail pleas were rejected.
As a result of her confession, Murugan and Karuppasamy were arrested for their alleged involvement.
Her confession cannot be used in court but it helps investigators question those involved.
The high court turned down their pleas but was granted bail by the Supreme Court.
The CB-CIDA filed a 200-page final charge sheet in September 2018. They submitted a 1,160-page preliminary charge sheet in July 2018.
In the final charge sheet, the CB-CID altered the charges to include trafficking, sexual harassment and conspiracy under the IPC.
Devi remained silent during her last hearing on February 14, 2019, when a group of policemen were at the court to prevent her from talking to the media.
Her advocate Mr Pandian alleged that Devi was physically manhandled so she could not say anything.
It is a possibility that the senior officials who Devi identified in her confession took measures to prevent anything against them from being said.
Mr Pandian alleged:
“She was roughed up while being bundled into the van by police. She has suffered injuries.”
It may be a serious allegation but it is feasible that they have been paid to prevent anything from being said.
Police corruption in India is quite common with 62% of officers having collected a bribe.
Murugan and Karuppusamy were working on behalf of the VC and Registrar when Devi became part of the sex for degrees scandal.
Why haven’t the Senior Officials been Questioned?
Despite VC Chellathurai and Registrar Chinnaiah been mentioned multiple times in Nirmala’s confession, they have not been questioned.
During the trial in September 2018, the CB-CID said that Nirmala lured the students only for her two colleagues.
The CB-CID has not mentioned the two senior officials as a part of the case. Instead, Nirmala has been painted as one of the main culprits.
She believes that they were part of the criminal scandal as her colleagues regularly spoke to them in secret.
Devi did state that she has never met the VC or Registrar. The CB-CID exaggerated the point by stating that they were not mentioned and supposedly ruled them out.
CB-CID investigation officer Rajeshwari said:
“Our charge sheet consists of all evidences – scientific and technological. She never spoke about the VC and Registrar in her confession.
“It is merely her assumption that she worked for them.”
As they have been ruled out and Nirmala was part of the hearing, it seems that most of her confession has tried to picture her as immoral.
Her statement either mentions the sex for degrees case or several men who have nothing to do with her college and university.
Naming the men seems to only further depict Nirmala as an “easy” woman, who has had sexual relationships with several men.
Being the main accused implies that Nirmala has been made the scapegoat in this case. According to what she said, she was pressured into committing the crime.
After being arrested and admitting to her wrongdoings, the senior officials she mentioned have been totally disregarded in the case.
It is not confirmed that the VC and Registrar were involved but avoiding questioning has raised questions.
While Nirmala has been granted conditional bail, she remains the main accused.
By not questioning the Vice-Chancellor or Registrar, it is possible that investigators concluded that they were not involved.
The fact that the two senior officials have been let off highlights the influence one can have on society.