Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit rules out resignation in wake of sex scandal

Apr 17, 2018, 22:16 IST | IANS

He appeared to keep the option of a CBI probe open, saying he would decide on it once the report of the one-man committee headed by a retired senior officer R. Santhanam is submitted

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Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Tuesday ruled out his resignation in the wake of a raging controversy over a sex scandal in a college in the state involving an assistant professor, who allegedly sought to lure girls into sexual favours to "higher-ups" in a leading university and denied he had anything to do with it.

He appeared to keep the option of a CBI probe open, saying he would decide on it once the report of the one-man committee headed by a retired senior officer R. Santhanam is submitted.

Nirmala Devi, an assistant professor in Devanga Arts College in Aruppukottai in Virudhunagar district has been arrested on the charge of suggesting to some girl students that they yield themselves to keep the "higher-ups" in the Madurai Kamaraj University happy so that the college gets facilities. She is heard making the demand for an audio clip that went viral on the social media.

In the audio clip, Nirmala Devi was heard saying that she was on the dais moving around at a function in which the Governor was present and she has access to top officials. However, no names were said in that audio clip.

Responding to questions Purohit said: "I attend so many convocation functions. So many people move around the dais. I have not seen her (Nirmala Devi's) face till date. I don't know that lady at all."

Purohit, who called an unusual press conference to promise a fair inquiry into the college episode, was at the receiving end with reporters plying a number of questions saying the woman teacher has made repeated references to him and would he resign to stay away from the probe. He was also asked how the probe appointed by him would be fair.

"My public life has always been transparent. You can also probe it. It is nonsense and rubbish," he said.

When some women reporters persisted with the question, he shot back: "I am of your grandfather's age. How can you ask such questions? Have some respect for your Governor." He also pointed out that the woman teacher had referred to the Governor as a grandfather in Tamil.

Asked repeatedly about opposition parties' demand for his resignation, Purohit shot back saying: "Let them do their job, I am doing my job."

DMK working President M.K. Stalin said a confusion had been created by the Governor ordering a probe in his capacity as Chancellor. "Only a high court-monitored CBI probe should be ordered." PMK leader Ramadoss echoed similar views.

In reply to a question about the statements of a CPI-M leader that he was being probed for sexual misconduct, Purohit hit back saying: "It is mere nonsense. It is totally baseless. It is a total falsehood."

He said the inquiry officer was a very efficient officer and is expected to do a diligent job.

When women reporters insisted that according to Supreme Court guidelines a woman should be involved in such a probe, Purohit said he had the freedom to take the help of any woman he wants.

Asked why he had ordered a probe when the Vice Chancellor had constituted a five-member committee to go into the issue, the Governor said he was the "supreme authority" in matters relating to colleges and universities in the state and rejected state Higher Education Minister Anbazhagan's statement that the Governor's decision was arbitrary.

"On the basis of the report of the one-man committee, I will take stringent action. I assure the people of Tamil Nadu that stringent action will be taken so that such incidents don't recur. Normally, the Chancellor is empowered to constitute a committee."

He said the Vice Chancellor had made a mistake in constituting the inquiry and that he had now rectified it.

Asked about the time-frame, first, he said it would be within a week but later amended it to a month or "as early as possible".

Replying to questions about the police investigation in the case, he said let the police do its job but as far as the university is concerned "I have ordered a one-man committee probe that will do its job".

He also rejected the opposition criticism about the appointment of K. Surappa from Karnataka as Vice-Chancellor of Anna University. He said the entire appointment process was transparent and his name was selected from a list of three names shortlisted after the search committee process. While the other two candidates had backgrounds of mathematics and biochemistry, Surappa had a rich engineering background.

"I am sworn to protect the Constitution which doesn't discriminate on the basis of caste, gender or region."

He also dismissed criticism of political parties about his meetings with officials in districts, saying they are not review meetings.

"I only talk to them to know more about the districts."

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