New Delhi, Bengaluru: The additional mahila court in Coimbatore Thursday handed over custody of an officer accused of rape to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The flight lieutenant was arrested by the Coimbatore Police on 26 September, following a complaint of rape by a woman IAF officer on 20 September.
The woman officer, in her complaint to the All Women’s Police Station in Coimbatore, accused the flight lieutenant of raping her on 10 September inside an IAF facility in Coimbatore.
The IAF had approached the local court Monday, demanding that the accused, since he is a serving officer, be handed over to it to stand trial in general court-martial proceedings in line with provisions of the Air Force Act, 1950.
The Coimbatore Police had retorted that the survivor had approached them after Air Force Authorities failed to help her in the matter.
In her scathing complaint to the police, the survivor accused IAF officers at the facility of harassing, intimidating and threatening her.
She has also alleged that she was traumatised by the doctors at the Air Force Hospital who subjected her to the banned “two-finger” test.
The Supreme Court of India had banned the “two-finger” test in 2013 deeming it a violation of privacy. In 2014, the Union government, based on the Supreme Court’s order, had issued guidelines against the intrusive test deeming that it had no bearing on a case of sexual violence.
IAF sources told ThePrint that a Court of Inquiry (CoI) was constituted in the case as soon as air force authorities received the complaint.
Survivor’s scathing complaint
The survivor, in her complaint, alleged that she was intimidated, harassed and deliberately misguided to withdraw her initial complaint filed with officers at the IAF training academy.
In her complaint, the woman officer has stated that the flight lieutenant entered her room when she was asleep, hours after all the officers had shared drinks at the officers’ mess bar at the institute and forced himself on her.
The survivor said that she felt sick after two drinks and was walked to her room by other colleagues. Tired, she conveyed that she wanted to go to bed and fell asleep.
The woman officer has stated that she repeatedly pushed the accused away and insisted that he leave the room when he woke her up and tried to allegedly assault her but he did not yield.
The survivor said she had taken a painkiller for an ankle injury she sustained on the evening of 9 September, could not move much and had passed out again.
It was only after her roommate, another woman officer, woke her up in the middle of the night and inquired about why the accused was in the room and her clothes were on the floor that she realised what had happened but was too weak to respond and passed out again. She claimed that the next morning, she told her roommate of the flight lieutenant’s attempt to assault her.
The survivor then went to the accused to confront him. According to her complaint, he apologised and said he was willing to face any action.
Further, in her complaint, the survivor claimed that her roommate and another colleague video-recorded the accused admitting to sexually violating her when she was unconscious and unresponsive.
According to the complaint, when she approached senior officers on 11 September to file a formal complaint, a woman officer asked her to “think of her and her family’s name”.
On the same day, the survivor decided against filing a complaint but was given an ultimatum, by two IAF officers she had approached, to either file a complaint or give an undertaking that the act was consensual.
The survivor chose to go ahead and file a formal complaint following which she was sent to the Air Force Hospital.
There, the survivor in her complaint alleged, she was subjected to the “two-finger” test by Air Force doctors. “Her action made me nauseous enough to relive the trauma of being raped,” the survivor said in her complaint.
The officer added that her bedsheet from the night of the crime was handed over for tests to doctors at the Air Force Hospital and that she also asked the hospital staff to collect samples from her semen-stained mattress. She alleged no tests were conducted until 20 September when she filed a complaint with Coimbatore police.
Two more women officers of the IAF, the survivor claimed, approached her over the matter and sought a statement from her on 12 September. She told them that she wanted time since she was in trauma.
The survivor alleged that one of the women officers, who identified herself as the presiding officer of the inquiry, intimidated her and her roommate and forced her to withdraw the complaint if she wasn’t willing to record a statement.
She added that she gave a statement and that on 15 September, the two women officers called her to sign it. She then allegedly found that a lot of changes had been introduced to the statement and that she forced sign it. She refused.
According to the complainant, the accused began attending classes as if nothing had happened, adding to her trauma.
Her complaint reads that she then asked the commandant of the institution if the accused would stop coming to classes or if she should drop out of the course. The commandant allegedly asked her to give her request in writing. An instructor, a wing commander, allegedly said that “if she could bear with an ankle injury, then she could bear with her rapist sitting in class”.
The survivor claimed the harassment, threats and trauma led to a panic attack on the night of 15 September. She finally approached the local police on 20 September.
NCW takes cognisance
The National Commission for Women Thursday said it had taken cognisance of the woman’s allegation that she was subjected to the regressive and banned “two-finger” test.
The NCW said it was disappointed and strongly condemned the actions of the IAF doctors.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma, said in a press note, that the NCW has written to the Air Chief Marshal to look into the matter. Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari took charge as the chief of Air Force Thursday.
In her letter, Sharma has asked the IAF chief to “take necessary steps and to impart the necessary knowledge to the Indian Air Force doctors about the prevailing guidelines laid down by the government and the Indian Council of Medical Research in the year 2014 terming the two-finger test as unscientific”.
(With inputs from Snehesh Alex Philip)
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)