Sheer incompetence on the part of the Tamil Nadu police has allowed two of the main accused in the Pollachi sexual assault case to no longer be detained under the Goondas Act. The Madras High Court on Friday quashed the Goondas Act invoked against Thirunavukkarasu and Sabarirajan (alias Riswandh) citing unclear documentation on the part of the police.
Under the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982 or Goondas Act, an accused can be imprisoned without bail for up to a year. However, failure on the part of the Tamil Nadu police to put in place proper documentation means that the two men who allegedly lured the survivor and then sexually assaulted her, will now be able to apply for bail.
The quashing of the Goondas Act came on Friday as the Madras High Court was hearing a petition moved by the parents of the accused Thirunavukkarasu and Sabarirajan. In their petition, they had stated that sexual crimes must be investigated only under the specific laws and that the details about the imposition of Goondas Act on Thirunavukkarasu and Sabarirajan were not informed to their families.
The petition was heard by a bench consisting of Justice MM Sundresh and Justice RMT Teekaa Raman, who stated that the relatives of the accused were not provided with the relevant documents informing that he accused were detained under the Goondas Act. The judges also stated that the documents related to the Goondas Act being invoked are unclear and thereby cancelled the District Collector’s orders.
The District Collector of Coimbatore had approved adding provisions of Goondas Act against the four men accused in the Pollachi sexual assault case in March 2019. Based on the Collector’s orders, the four men -- Thirunavukkarasu, Sabarirajan, Sathish and Vasanthakumar -- were detained under the Goondas Act.
The case relates to a complaint filed by a Pollachi-based woman on February 24, stating that four men -- Thirunavukkarasu, Sathish, Sabarirajan and Vasanthakumar – allegedly sexually assaulted her in a car under the pretext of a friendly meeting on February 12. The police also confirmed that the accused in the case had videographed the act and used it later to extort money from the survivor. Sabarirajan, Vasanthakumar and Sathish were arrested on February 24 and Thirunavukkarasu was apprehended on March 5. After alleged police inaction and huge public outcry, the probe was transferred to the CBI, which filed the first chargesheet in the case in May.
The Goondas Act defines a 'goonda' as a person who either by himself or as a member of or leader of a gang habitually commits, or attempts to commit or abets the commission of offence. The Tamil Nadu police have in the past arbitrarily slapped the Goondas Act against persons they want to keep behind bars without making a prima facie case. As a result, the court very often quashes the Goondas Act against accused.
The Pollachi case is not the first time that police incompetence has allowed accused in a sexual assault case to walk free. In 2017, Dhasvanth, the main accused in the child sexual assault and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Chennai’s Mugalivakkam, was allowed to walk out on bail after the Madras High Court set aside the Goondas Act invoked against him. At the time, police delay in booking the accused under the Goondas Act had allowed him to be released on bail. Within months of his release, he went on to allegedly murder his mother.