Hathras/New Delhi: Doctors at the Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital (JNMCH) insist that the forensic report being used by the UP Police to claim that the 20-year-old woman from Hathras who died of her injuries was not raped is “completely unreliable”.
The Dalit woman, who was allegedly gang raped and assaulted on 14 September, succumbed to her injuries at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on 29 September, having spent much of the intervening period battling for her life at the JNMCH. She was cremated in the wee hours of 30 September on the outskirts of her village, Boolgarhi, in Hathras district, by the police, allegedly without consent of her family.
Just a day later, on 1 October, UP ADGP (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar had cited a report by the Forensic Science Laboratory in Agra to claim that the woman was not raped. This report was based on samples collected on 22 September, eight days after the alleged rape took place.
However, Dr Hamza Malik, president of the Resident Doctors’ Association at the JNMCH, told ThePrint that government guidelines strictly state that forensic evidence in rape cases can be found only up to 96 hours after the incident, and thus, the FSL report can’t conclusively prove whether rape took place or not.
The first report issued about the victim was a medico-legal case (MLC) examination report issued on 22 September, in which the doctor conducting the exam gave a “provisional opinion” that “on the basis of local examination, I am of the opinion that there are signs of use of force”.
The MLC report said there was “complete penetration by penis” in the vagina, according to the details provided by the woman. “However, opinion regarding penetrative intercourse is reserved pending availability of FSL reports,” the report had added.
Also on 22 September, the woman gave a ‘dying declaration’, talking about the rape and naming four upper caste men for the crime. The hospital and doctors claim the woman only informed them about sexual assault that day.
According to JNMCH medical superintendent Dr Haris Manzur Khan, the hospital collected 13 samples the same day — nail clippings, hair, vaginal swab stick, endocervical swab stick, perineal swab stick, anal swab stick, blood sample, control swab stick, two salwar, a torn kurta, a dupatta, and underwear — and sent them to the Agra FSL on 25 September.
Then came an autopsy report on 29 September, conducted by New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital just after her death that day, which said the woman’s “hymen showed multiple old healed tears” and “anal orifice showed old healed tears”.
Then came the FSL report on 1 October, according to which human blood was found on the vaginal, endocervical, perineal and anal swabs as well as on the clothes. This was quoted at a press briefing by UP Police ADG Prashant Kumar to claim there was no rape due to absence of semen.
On 3 October, the Department of Forensic Medicine at JNMCH wrote to the circle officer of Sadabad police station, with the “final opinion in response to your letter”, signed by Dr Faiz Ahmed, assistant professor, and Dr Saadiya Saeed, chairperson. The “final opinion” stated that “there are no signs suggestive of vaginal/anal intercourse” and “there are evidences of physical assault (injuries over the neck and back)”.
All these reports have been accessed by ThePrint.
Dr Hamza Malik, however, said, the FSL report was flawed. Malik, an eye surgeon, said any MBBS doctor could understand why, because forensics is an important part of the curriculum for the degree.
“Government guidelines strictly state that forensic evidence can only be found only up to 96 hours after the incident. Semen presence can only be found within those 96 hours in certain other conditions such as no urination, defecation, bathing the victim and not changing clothes. In this case, everything had already taken place,” he said.
“The sample was collected and sent to the forensics on 25 September, 11 days after the crime. The FSL report only states that there was no semen found, but doesn’t provide verdict of no rape. The autopsy, MLC (medical legal case report), and FSL don’t deny rape,” Malik said.
“Western countries like America take out reports up to three months (after the incident) but we don’t have the technology here to do so. The autopsy report (by Safdarjung Hospital) mentions that there is vaginal tear in hymen. Anal canal also has a tear at 11 o’ clock position. We study in forensic sciences that in rape cases, due to use of force, there is tear in the anal canal in the same position… the maximum time needed for these tears to heal is 7-10 days, so once again we cannot just reject rape,” Malik added.
He said the human blood found on the samples, according to the FSL report, should have been sent for further DNA testing.
Another senior doctor from the JNMCH who didn’t wish to be named because of the SIT probe and pressure, concurred with Malik on the non-conclusiveness of the FSL report, while a Delhi-based gynaecologist at a private hospital also said in gang-rape cases, forensic samples need to be collected within 96 hours as the “evidence including semen gets removed after the time frame”.
A member of the Agra FSL team that dealt with the samples also told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that “chances of finding semen is negligible after sample is collected eight days after the rape”.