Three weeks after assistant professor Nirmala Devi of the Devanga Arts College in Tamil Nadu was arrested over accusations of luring students into sex work, her lawyer has told TNM that her family has not come forward to bail her out. Amidst media reports that Nirmala could be granted bail soon, the lawyer clarifies that she could end up remaining in custody even after her 15-day CB-CID custody ends on Wednesday.
“This was the first time that she was engaged in luring girls in this manner and she got caught,” her lawyer Shobhu Ramkumar tells TNM. The advocate is also handling Nirmala Devi’s divorce case and is thus familiar with her family. “Her husband and daughter want nothing to do with her. Her brother is the one who has been in touch and been collecting her belongings. But even he is waiting to see the extent of her involvement in the case before pushing for bail,” he adds.
Nirmala Devi was arrested by the Virudhunagar police on April 16 following allegations by four women students in the college. In the audio clip of a 19-minute telephonic conversation, she can be heard telling students, whose identities have not been made public, that an ‘opportunity’ has come their way. She says that they are expected to do certain things ‘secretly’ for a very senior official of the Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), to which the college is affiliated. The clip created furore after being circulated on social media and the issue snowballed into a larger controversy.
Nirmala’s claim that ‘higher authorities’ were involved, brought the focus on the alleged involvement of even the Vice Chancellor of the MKU. At one point in the conversation, the professor even claims to have access to the ‘Governor’. Following this, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit formed a committee under retired IAS officer R Santhanam to look into the alleged involvement of college authorities.
Soon after, the CB-CID took over the investigation. They then arrested Nirmala Devi’s alleged aides – V Murugan, assistant professor of management studies at MKU, and Karuppasamy, a former research student of fine arts at MKU. They were allegedly her associates in the crime. The advocate however points out that both Murugan and Karuppasamy have already applied for bail.
“Nirmala is depressed and is undergoing psychiatric treatment. So, she is very impressionable and could have been influenced into indulging in such activities. Students have always maintained that she is a good teacher,” he says.
An investigating official meanwhile told TNM that the accused will be offered free legal aid if she wishes to file a petition for bail herself.
The committee headed by R Santhanam meanwhile is still conducting enquiries. The retired IAS officer tells TNM that the report is yet to be submitted to the TN Governor.