Central Information Commission Prof. Sridhar Acharyulu has directed the PIO, Family and Welfare Department to make an advisory available to doctors/physicians entrusted with the medical examination of survivors of sexual assault, NGOs and prepare a note in simple English explaining medial terms in simple language to remove the misunderstandings about these tests among the media, legal experts and general public. It also directed the advisory to include an instruction to the doctors to explain the purpose and need in language of the victim or their relatives before conducting such test only for medical purposes and not to establish the conduct of victim.
The appellant, Mr. Yogesh Kumar had sought to know whether PV test (aka -two finger test) on rape victims is banned or not. After First Appellate Authority ordered disclosure, the PIO, Dr. Lily Gangmei (Directorate of Health Services) stated that an advisory was issued on 28.5.2014 to the doctors in general dissuading them from resorting to PV test when not medically needed.
The Commission however directed documents to be produced, stating whether any decision has been taken in this regard. If the test is not banned, then the reason for the same was supposed to be provided; also whether punitive actions can be resorted to in case such guidelines are not followed.
The Commission noticed that Dr. R. N. Das has given this report to PIO, Dr. Lily Gangmei to be given to appellant, ten months after the order of FAO dated 15.4.2014. It was also noted that, while the Advisory note was handed over to Dr R N Das on 12.5.2014, he chose to share it with the PIO only on 11th February 2015. The Commission found that Mr Das has obstructed the information though he has it under his control and directed him to show cause why maximum penalty cannot be imposed against him.
The advisory states: “It is evident from the media reports that a misconception exists in the minds of the general public, legal experts and the judicial courts that ‘finger test’ is conducted by doctors to judge if the rape victim is habituated to sexual intercourse”.
“What has been alluded to as ‘Finger Test by the doctor on a rape victim’ in the media and legal circles is simply the ‘per vaginal examination’ done by the doctor examining the victim by inserting one finger or two fingers in the vagina of victim. It is unfortunate that the term ‘finger test’ has gained considerable coinage,” it adds.
The advisory has clarified that PV examination is done for the purposes of evaluating condition of genital organs, document injuries, possible infection to institute therapeutic measures and to collect samples, and not to judge if the woman under examination is habituated to sexual intercourse.
It also stated that the examination should be conducted for medical reasons only and never to judge the habituation of the survivor to sexual intercourse (as being wrongly perceived in the media). It instructs doctors: to refrain from recording how many fingers can or cannot be inserted during these gynaecological examinations, doctors should refrain from comments both verbal and written like ‘rape has occurred/not occurred or likely/unlikely’, etc.
The Advisory concluded that it cannot be recommended that physicians be made to function under the constraint of a complete ban of these essential steps of internal examination of a sexual assault survivor, which may not only prove detrimental to her health but also result in injustice.
Read the order here.