The panel set up to probe the sex scandal in Aruppukottai, where a woman college teacher allegedly prodded students to extend sexual favours to university officials, today launched an inquiry, while the assistant professor's lawyer claimed she faced threat in jail.
Retired IAS officer R Santhanam, appointed by Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to probe the alleged incident, interacted with the vice-chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University P P Chellathurai and registrar V Chinnaiah about the allegation against Nirmala Devi.
The former officer later told reporters here that those "affected" by the teacher's conduct should depose before him without fear. He said the identity of those deposing would be kept confidential.
"If anyone has any information regarding the incident they can share it with the enquiry committee," he said.
Santhanam said, if necessary, he would hold the enquiry at the government guest house in Madurai to ascertain why the assistant professor asked students to "adjust" with some university officials for better marks and money.
The scandal came to light when an audio tape of Nirmala Devi's advice to students went viral on social media recently. She had also purportedly made an oblique reference to governor Purohit in the tape.
Meanwhile, Nirmala Devi's advocate Balasubramanian told journalists he met her in the prison where, he claimed, she told him that she feared for her life as the atmosphere there was "unusual and strange".
He said she told him that an edited version of her conversation with students had been released in the social media.
Quoting the assistant professor, he said, she was being "used as a tool to bring disrepute" to the college where she was working.
Nirmala Devi was arrested on a complaint by the college and a women's forum after an audio clip of her purported conversation with students went viral on social media.
The alleged conversation between the assistant professor at the Devanga Arts College in Aruppukottai in Virudhunagar district, about 500 km from Chennai, took place a month ago. She was suspended, arrested and sent to jail.
In the audio clip, she is purportedly heard advising girl students to "adjust" with some officials "for getting 85 per cent marks and money", a suggestion seen as asking them to extend sexual favours.
She had denied there was any sexual angle to her advice and claimed she made it "in the right spirit" without any "hidden motive or agenda".
As the issue snowballed into a major controversy, Purohit, who as the governor is the chancellor of the university, ordered a probe by Santhanam.