June 10, 2011


Times of India


High Court Directs State Govt To Implement Scientific Norms To Examine Victims Of Sexual Assault

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to circulate amongst hospitals and police stations,the newly formulated pro-formas (forms) on forensic medical examination of rape victims.

The court bench of Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Pramod Kode,while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL),asked the state government to file a compliance report within eight weeks.The intention is to ensure implementation of new detailed forensic tests for rape victims to bring in greater sensitivity and scientific authority into the process.

The state will now distribute fresh instruction manuals,forms for examination of rape accused,age estimation,requisition letter for chemical analysis and a new format to seek final opinion,to medical officers across all state hospitals and police stations.

The PIL was filed by Child Welfare Committee (CWC) chairperson Dr Ranjana Pardhi and lawyer Vijay Patait on the basis of a report submitted by Dr Indrajit Khandekar.The report was titled Pitiable and horrendous quality of forensic medical examination of sexually assaulted victims.The PIL was supported by Mumbai-based NGO CEHAT,which had filed an intervention application and given suggestions on ways to make the investigation more humane on rape victims and also more scientific and to rule out the degrading two-finger test on victims.The new norms will do away with the outdated and heavily criticised finger test,which was used by doctors to determine whether the girl is habituated to sexual intercourse or not.

Dr Khandekar,an assistant professor in the department of forensic medicine at Sewagrams Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences,had pointed out how the accused exploited loopholes in law leading to their acquittal.The plea in court was thus to have the government bring in a uniform protocol and training for doctors and nurses.

Flavia Agnes,leading womens activist and lawyer,said in 2003 itself,the law of evidence was amended and it did away with the need to record past sexual history of a rape victim.The amended law prohibited testing a woman on her general immoral character.Agnes said,Hence the continuation of a onefinger,two-finger testing of the victim to suggest her habitualness ought to have been scrapped The latest development is a welcome step.

Lawyers say the guidelines will ensure that trials will now be based on medical evidence and not on moral opinions.

Decade Of Disturbing Figures

Anew rape protocol is the need of the hour given the rising incidence of such crimes in the state.Mumbai is second only to Delhi,the rape capital of the country,with 182 women raped in 2009 alone up from 141 a decade ago.The state-wide figures are no better,with a worrying 10% jump in the number of women raped over the past decade.The actual number of rapes are considered to be much higher as not all women muster up the courage to report the crime.A new protocol may help improve Maharashtras paltry conviction rate.Only 19.1% of rape offenders were convicted under section 376 of the IPC in the state in 2009,way below the already-shameful all-India average of 26.9%.

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