Is PV test (two finger test) banned on rape victims? - PIO: An advisory was issued dissuading doctors from resorting to PV test when not medically needed - CIC: Advisory should be made available to doctors & NGOs in simple English explaining medial terms
1. Appellant 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.
2. Commission vide even order dt 21.1.2015 directed as under:
“28. The Commission directs the PIO of Directorate of Health Services to attend the hearing on 2nd March, 2015 with concerned files and response of the directorate on following points:
(a) whether they have taken any decision or not in regard to banning of two finger test on victims of sexual assault,
(b) if not, what are the reasons for not taking any decision,
(c) what actions are available if their guidelines are not followed,
(d) when guidelines are specifically dissuading doctors from conducting this notorious test, why the medical text books are not revised accordingly, etc.”
This is an important policy decision the public authority is expected to take, and inform the reasons under mandatory disclosure policy as per section 4 of RTI Act. It is also the duty of Directorate of Health & Family Welfare to disclose such a significant policy for the welfare of the women in public interest.
3. Appeal was closed but posted for compliance on 26th March 2015. Appellant claimed noncompliance as no document was received.
4. On 26.3.2015, Ms. Priyanka Mishra appeared on behalf of appellant, Mr. Ashok Kumar, Ms. Sushma Singh, Deputy Secretary, Dr. Puneeta Mahajan (H & FW dept), Dr. Lily Gangmei, (PIO, Dept of Health Services) were present from respondents.
5. The First Appellate Authority has ordered the Director DHS on 15th April 2014 to provide the information within 20 days. The Advisory document was made available to Dr R N Das on 12th May 2014, which he should have forwarded to PIO so that the PIO complied with the order of FAA. It was not done. Only after the CIC ordered on 21st January 2015, Dr. R. N. Das MSMH sent on 11th February 2015, a copy of advisory on tests to be conducted on rape victims to the PIO. 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 is sad to note 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 finds Mr Das has obstructed the information though he has it under his control and directs Mr. Das to show cause why maximum penalty cannot be imposed against him for this long delay in furnishing information to the PIO, within three weeks from the date of receipt of this order.
6. However without any further delay the PIO gave the information on the same day i.e., 11.2.2015 and also offered inspection of files on 20th Feb 2015 to the appellant.
7. Expert gynaecologist Dr. Puneeta Mahajan represented that there was a misconception among the general public and media that Per Vaginal test was being conducted on all rape victims routinely.
8. First paragraph of the advisory stated: “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”.
9. Third paragraph says: “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”.
10. Under point 3.3 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.
11. In point 3.6 of advisory quotes WHO guidelines and stated “...PV examination should be performed only if medically indicates certain circumstances (listed)”
12. Under point 3.10 the advisory stated 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). The Advisory 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.
13. Generally the Doctors are told in ‘’Advisory’ that ‘comfort of the survivor and allaying her apprehension is of paramount importance’, ‘survivor must be counselled and made aware of importance of medical examination. Under Point 9.4 it is stated: ‘Although it is conceded that ‘per vaginal’, ‘per speculum’ ‘bimanual examination’ may not be necessary in all the cases, physicians examining such cases ultimately have a duty to do all in the best interests of their patients, only they have to be judicious and take informed consent before they perform these procedures.
14. The Advisory has finally 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.
15. The Advisory was prepared by Dr Gita Radhakrishnan, Director Professor & HOD Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University College of Medical Sciences, Dr Amita Saxena, HOD, Obstetrics and Gynaecology & MS, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Dr Sreenivas, Associate Professor Forensic Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College.
16. Dr Puneeta Mahajan stated that in some cases the tests were necessary to achieve conviction of rape accused and also for the purpose of treatment to the victim.
17. The Commission, while noting that sufficient information was provided, directs the respondent public authority to see that this advisory was made 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 directs 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.
18. With the above observations, the appeal is closed.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Yogesh Kumar v. Family & Welfare Department in Case No. CIC/SA/A/2014/000986