Bombay High Court laments lack of health facilities in remote areas to conduct medical examination of rape survivors

While hearing an appeal against a rape conviction, the Court noted that the victim in the instant case could not be examined at the sub-district hospital and had to be referred to the Civil Hospital in Nanded district.

The Bombay High Court recently voiced its concern over the lack of proper medical facilities in rural areas to examine rape survivors, which delays the medical examination of such persons thereby benefitting the accused [Dilip Sambhaji Gajbhare vs State of Maharashtra].

While hearing an appeal against a rape conviction, a division bench of Justices Vibha Kankanwadi and SG Chapalgaonkar noted that the victim in the instant case could not be examined at the sub-district hospital and had to be referred to the Civil Hospital in Nanded district.

“It is an unfortunate scenario that even after Independence, health services are not available in many remote areas. The basic medical facilities are also not available there and, therefore, we cannot expect that expert medical officers would be available at such Sub District Hospitals or Rural Hospitals,” the bench observed in its June 26 order, made available on Saturday.

Because of this, rape survivors are to be brought to the District Hospitals for medical examination, the bench added.

The bench further emphasised the fact that the law allows police authorities to get rape survivors examined by a private practitioner having the requisite expertise.

“The purpose behind those provisions is that the rape victim should be taken to the nearest medical expert so that the evidence should not get lapsed or destroyed,” the bench observed.

It further expressed displeasure at the conduct of the police authorities.

“Unfortunately, either police do not approach those private medical practitioners or sometimes they do not get cooperation from the private practitioners. This reality will have to be considered in this case also. Therefore, the belated examination of the victim cannot be a point for the accused to give benefit,” the bench added.

The bench was hearing a criminal appeal filed by one Dilip Gajbhare, challenging a May 2016 judgment of a sessions court that had convicted him for rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also for offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

As per the prosecution case, on the afternoon of September 8, 2014, the appellant gave a ₹1 coin to the six-year-old victim who was playing outside his house.

The man then took the girl inside his house and raped her. She narrated her ordeal to her mother and later the village’s Police Patil and Deputy Sarpanch were informed of the incident and a first information report (FIR) was lodged against the accused the next day.

Among other arguments, the appellant highlighted the fact that despite the incident taking place on September 8, the FIR was lodged on September 9, and the girl was medically examined only on September 10. This delayed medical examination must be viewed with the suspicion, the appellant argued.

Upon enquiry, the bench learnt that the sub-district Hospital in the girl’s village lacked facilities to examine a rape survivor and so she was referred to the District Hospital, where she travelled with a lady constable on September 10.

After examining the evidence, the bench noted that the material on record proved the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

“We do not find any merit in the present appeal. The appellant was aged 46 when the offence was committed and it has come in the evidence that he was residing with his wife and children. Still, he has ravished a small child aged six years and, therefore, no leniency can be shown as against him. Hence, the appeal stands dismissed,” the bench said in the order.

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