Fresh Controversy Over Medical Evidence In Odisha Gang Rape Case
A year after it happened, the case of alleged rape of a minor girl by men in uniform in Kunduli area of Odisha’s Koraput district is in discussion again. After his dismissal from Biju Janata Dal (BJD), a former minister in the Naveen Patnaik cabinet, Dr. Damodar Rout, has sparked fresh controversy. He has stated that evidences were manipulated, destroyed and altered in the case to protect one alleged rapist, a constable in paramilitary forces.
However, Professor Sudipa Das, Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at MKCG Medical College, Berhampur, who led the forensic medical team to investigate the case has termed such allegations made by Rout “baseless”. She has told The Quint, “I don’t see the government at any fault in regard to forensic medical investigations in this case.”
Background of the Case
The girl, a class IX student from Musaguda village under Potangi police limits, alleged that a group of “men in uniform” gang-raped her in a forest while she was returning home from the Kunduli market on October 10, 2017.
The survivor somehow reached her aunt’s house and was first admitted to a local hospital and then shifted to Saheed Laxman Nayak Medical College and Hospital in Koraput.
Next day, the Director General of Odisha police said that the police were treating it as a “red flag” case and announced the formation of a separate team to identify the culprits. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also termed the incident as “inhuman.”
Since nothing significant happened for almost a month, people started questioning police actions in identifying and nabbing the alleged perpetrators in the case. On Nov 7, 2017, the Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) of Odisha police came up with its statement, referring to medical reports, that the minor girl was not raped.
On January 22, 2018, the victim committed suicide.
Rout’s Recent Claims
Speaking to media recently, Rout pulled to the dock the reigning government saying, “Our government left no stone unturned to suppress the Kunduli gang-rape case.”
“Preliminary investigation confirmed semen spots on the clothes of the victim which she wore at the time of the incident,” Rout added. He claimed further that “the police sent another set of clothes of the victim later for advanced forensic tests purposefully to cover up the rape.”
These claims by the lawmaker, who remained a minister in the Naveen-led governments, raised many an eyebrow over investigation. The police had rejected incidence of any rape on the basis of forensic and medical evidences. Rout’s remarks have encouraged a questioning of the political intent of the CM and the state of democracy and governance in Odisha.
Also Read : Former minister Damodar Rout expelled from BJD
Seeds of Doubt
As per a report leaked by a regional TV channel, Odisha TV (OTV), two patches of semen from two persons, allegedly rapists with A and B blood groups, were spotted. Authorities of the State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) did not disown this leaked report but explained through a press release that the disseminated one was the “preliminarily inter divisional report” and not the final one.
This report still remains the centre of doubt that the laboratory authorities need to clarify.
In another report that had the same file number and signatory, as shown by the aforesaid tv channel, two patches of semen were replaced by vaginal secretion from single human being with blood group A, (that of the survivor).
Subsequently, the district police also filed an affidavit negating the allegations of gang-rape with the Odisha High Court in compliance to a direction issued by the latter regarding a PIL seeking probe into the case by CBI or NIA.
Now the question is, how could two reports signed by a single investigator have the same file number with different findings? Was it a mistake or an attempt to cover-up? And, is it true that samples collected were altered by police while sending to SFSL and Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kolkata, for advanced tests, as claimed by Rout?
No Medical Evidence of Rape
“Our investigation was all scientific and unbiased. We reached the same day and did our job meticulously with utmost care in compliance to the guidelines set by the government for forensic medical tests in such cases,” claims Das. She adds authoritatively, “We didn’t see any medical evidence of penetration with the survivor, as alleged. No vaginal injury, no foreign elements in any of the samples collected, no marks of any struggle with perpetrators to corroborate the claims of the survivor”.
Das challenges Rout and his followers saying, “I dare anyone to contest the medical examination report and prove it wrong scientifically”. She points out that “everyone was happy with one side of the story where scientific investigation was completely ignored.”
Asked about the report with mention of semen patches, Das simply says, “We didn’t find any such evidence in the samples we examined.”
However, with some degree of disagreement over HRPC’s claim that the forensic medical examination report rules out gang rape theory, Das tells The Quint that the team didn’t rule out the incidence of rape but had said that there was “no medical evidence” of penetration or sexual offence.
“Medical examination being only a part of the investigation, rape had to be established or ruled out on basis of investigations done by all different agencies,” she says.
Underlining recent amendments in the rape law as need of the hour, a bench of Delhi High Court observed in July 2018 that Justice cannot be denied to victims of sexual offences for lack of medical evidence. “In most of such cases, there is no medical evidence. Oral testimony of the victim is sufficient,” it mentioned.
Rape of minors being seen as a trend in Odisha, the Kunduli gang rape case is just a tip of the the iceberg where justice is still awaited.
According to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s statement on the floor of the Odisha Assembly, the crime branch investigation in the case of Kunduli gang rape case is still on. The judicial probe into the case still continues.
(Basudev Mahapatra is the Former Editor-in-Chief of Naxatra News. He tweets at @BasudevNews. )