Guj HC | Two finger test violates the right of victim to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity; held unconstitutional

Two Finger test Held — Unconstitutional

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of J.B. Pardiwala and Bhargav D. Karia, JJ., while deciding  the two clubbed appeals, held that,

“Two-finger test is unconstitutional. It violates the right of the victim to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity.”

Court while analysing the present set of appeals stated that, it is a very unique acquittal appeal.

In the present case, two appeals have been combined.

The accused has been convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 366 and 363 of the Penal Code, 1860. Trial Court acquitted the accused for the charge of rape under Section 376 of IPC.

Prosecutions’ Case

While the victim was on her way to answer nature’s call early in the morning, she was hit by the accused with a weapon and forcefully taken away by him. While the victim was in custody and confinement of the accused, she was ravished forcefully.

It has been stated that the victim went missing on 26-03-1994, but the FIR lodged by the mother was on 10-04-1994. Further, the investigation revealed that the victim was confined at the house of the brother of the accused. Once the accused was arrested by the police at the stated place, the victim and the accused were thereafter sent for medical examination.

Through the birth certificates and other relevant documents, it was found that the victim was a minor at the date of the alleged offence, i.e. she was less than 16 years of age.

On noting the oral and documentary evidence, the trial court held the accused guilty of offences punishable under Sections 363 and 366 of Penal Code, 1860. But the trial court acquitted the accused of the charge of rape under Section 376 IPC on an erroneous assumption that the victim was major on the said date of offence.

Analysis of the Court

As stated earlier, the Court found the present set of appeals as a very “unique acquittal appeal”.

It was noted that, at the time when the trial court heard the prosecution and the defence on the point of the sentence that the trial court realised that it had committed a mistake in calculating the age of the victim. Trial Court acknowledged its mistake, but declined to do anything in the matter, as the order of acquittal was already pronounced.

Point about the “Two-Finger Test”

Court noted very disturbing contents in the medical certificate of the victim, wherein it appeared that in the course of the medical examination, the two-finger test was conducted.

“The two-finger test also known as the PV (Per Vaginal) refers to an intrusive physical examination of a woman’s vagina to figure out the laxity of vaginal muscles and whether the hymen is distensible or not. In this, the doctor puts two fingers inside the woman’s vagina and the ease with which the fingers penetrate her are assumed to be in direct proportion to her sexual experience. Thus, if the fingers slide in easily the woman is presumed to be sexually active and if the fingers fail to penetrate or find difficulty in penetrating, then it is presumed that she has her hymen intact, which is a proof of her being a virgin.”

Adding to the above, Court also stated that the two-finger test is one of the most unscientific methods of examination that is used in the context of sexual assault and has no forensic value. Section 155 of the Indian Evidence Act, does not allow a rape victim’s credibility to be compromised.

To add to the analysis, Court while placing their concern with regard to the “two-finger test” also stated that,

“Medical procedures should not be carried out in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and health should be of paramount consideration while dealing with gender-based violence.”

Referring to the Supreme Court case in, Lillu v. State of Haryana, (2013) 14 SCC 643, wherein it was held that,

“…A rapist not only causes physical injuries, but leaves behind a scar on the most cherished position of a woman, i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and chastity.”

 “…two-finger test and its interpretation violates the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity.”

 Learned APP, submitted he is not sure whether the State of Gujarat has issued any directions to do away with the Per-Vaginum examination – Two-Finger Test.

 Endeavour is to remind the trial courts as well as the medical fraternity that the “two-finger test” is unconstitutional, as it violates the right of the victim of sexual assault to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity.

Further, the Court found the only question for consideration,

“Whether the trial court committed any error in holding the accused guilty of the offence of kidnapping punishable under Section 366 IPC and acquitting the accused of the offence of rape punishable under Section 376 IPC?

 For the above, High Court stated that, in case if the victim was a consenting party and had some relations with the accused, there is no escape from the fact that the victim was minor.

Once the victim is found to be a minor at the time of commission of offence, more particularly, when it comes to the offence of rape, the accused cannot plead in his defence that the victim was a consenting party.

Conclusion

High Court on perusal of the above stated that unfortunately, the trial court realised its mistake at a very late stage and in such circumstances, the trial court found itself in a helpless situation as it could not have reviewed its order of erroneous acquittal or illegal acquittal so far as the offence of rape was concerned.

Thus, the High Court held the accused to be guilty of the offence of rape punishable under Section 376 of IPC. Conviction appeal preferred by the accused should fail and the acquittal appeal preferred by the State of Gujarat should succeed.  [State of Gujarat v. Rameshchandra Rambhai Panchal, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 114, decided on 17-01-2020]

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