While the Indian Air Force has denied that the banned two-finger test was performed on the survivor of the alleged rape at Coimbatore IAF Institute, her advocate alleged that the statement is false.
Advocate Mohanakrishnan who had served in the Air Force and is now appearing on behalf of the survivor, told The Quint, “The survivor had categorically told the forum that the medical officer did a two- finger-test. She had said clearly that this was the only test done. But that is not admissible in the investigation. Now how do we prove this? This fight is not going to be easy.”
IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said on Tuesday, 5 October, that it was “misreported” that the woman was subjected to a two-finger test. The survivor in her FIR had stated that she was subjected to the banned test when she reported the case to her superiors in the Indian Air Force.
The survivor, a flight lieutenant at the college, had alleged that her peer, Amitesh, had sexually assaulted her in the intervening night of 9 and 10 September 2021. The FIR reported that Amitesh allegedly came into her room and stayed despite the survivor telling him to leave. The complaint states that the survivor who was unconscious during the alleged rape, realised that she had been sexually assaulted based on the evidence of semen-stained bedsheets and accounts by her friends.
Her Word vs His Word
In the First Information Report (FIR), the survivor had alleged that she was subjected to the two-finger test at the medical examination and was asked about her sexual history.
The two-finger test was banned after the promulgation of the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013, as it is considered an unscientific and outdated method to ascertain sexual assault based on the laxity of the vaginal muscles.
The survivor had mentioned in the FIR that she was unaware that this was not legally approved and raised an issue later when her colleagues flagged it to her.
Advocate Mohanakrishnan suggested that the case will be strong if the medical officer who performed the test agrees to give a statement.
“….Then the survivor's case will be strong but the IAF will not let her speak. She is also an officer in the Air Force and not a civilian."
'IAF Could Tamper with Evidence'
The most crucial piece of evidence that favours the survivor is the video of Amitesh confessing to the assault. According to this video which is mentioned in the FIR, he reportedly entered her room with the intention of “taking advantage of her". Police officials have confirmed that this video evidence, which is classified as an "extra judicial confession", has been submitted to the magistrate.
“That video is what is going to help her in the case and could help us fight for justice." While the survivor has been receiving a lot of backlash from her superiors and has even been threatened for pursuing the case, “she is very strong and here to fight this,” Mohanakrishnan said.
The survivor had also mentioned that the medical officers of the Air Force Hospital (AFH) had asked to see the video before conducting the examination on her, but a colleague managed to intervene and point out that the complainant was not obliged to share the “confession”.
She alleged that she was informed that the swab sample, taken on 11 September, has been sent for testing and has come back negative. She later found out that it was not sent for testing at all, the FIR says.
It is important to note that vaginal swabs should be collected on the same day of the assault to get accurate results.
The complainant said that the bed sheet with Amitesh’s alleged semen stains were handed over to the AFH and that she had asked for the mattress cover to be collected from her room. She has alleged that after she was allocated another room, she noticed that the mattress was not taken for examination, and the room was not sealed off properly until 17 September.
“The evidence should have been taken to the civil police. The fingerprints and evidence should have been examined by now. What if tomorrow the Air Force gives another bed sheet? The Air Force can tamper with the material evidence. After all, she is only a Flight Lieutenant and an Air Force Marshall can decide her future easily. She has received many threats and she has been told to withdraw the case.”Advocate Mohanakrishnan
Despite Allegations of Intimidation by Officials, Case Moved to Air Force
On 30 September, Judicial Magistrate Court in Coimbatore granted the Indian Air Force custody of the accused and allowed the Air Force to deal with the matter through a court martial.
This comes despite the survivor’s demands for a police investigation, amid alleged intimidation and harassment by the Air Force officials at the College where the alleged sexual assault took place.
Citing the the Indian Air Force Act 1950, the accused Amitesh's advocate and former special public prosecutor for the CBI, N. Sundaravadivelu said, “The argument was who is entitled to custody; who is entitled to investigate. They (the police) were quoting certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Act is very clear...The alleged crime is supposed to have taken place inside the premises which is under the control of the Indian Air Force. So, they are entitled to investigate, have a court of enquiry, and have a court martial.”
Meanwhile, advocate Mohanakrishnan alleged that there are "no proper investigating officers at IAF".
“There are only enquiry officers at the IAF. Police are trained for investigation but there are no such trained officers here. While the accused is permitted to hire an advocate to argue his case, the victim is not allowed the same. She can challenge the verdict in the high court later. This is the reason why so many similar cases in the Air Force have only ended in acquittal,” he added.
The advocate echoed the survivor’s fears when he said that the investigation will not be fair and that it will be a difficult fight.