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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Tamil Nadu: IAF takes custody of officer accused of rape; woman said pressure from seniors

In the FIR, the 28-year-old officer also said she was subjected to the two-finger test, which is now banned, at the Air Force Hospital.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: October 1, 2021 8:48:43 am
The woman also alleged she was subjected to 'two-finger test' at the Air Force Hospital to ascertain rape, which was banned by the Supreme Court a few years ago. (Representational image)

The IAF has taken the custody of a Flight Lieutenant accused of rape by a fellow officer at the Air Force Administrative College (AFAC) in Coimbatore. The alleged victim had earlier said her in complaint to the Tamil Nadu Police that her seniors at the IAF had forced her to withdraw her complaint against Amitesh Harmukh.

“The Air Force sought the custody of the accused and the court seems to have agreed to their demand. I can comment on this only when I get the court order copy,” Coimbatore City Police Commissioner Deepak D Damor told The Indian Express, adding that the woman had approached them as she was “not satisfied” with the action taken internally.

In her FIR, the 28-year-old officer also said she was subjected to the two-finger test, which is now banned, at the Air Force Hospital.

She had filed the complaint on September 20, and Harmukh was arrested by police on September 25. The court order transferring him to the IAF custody came Thursday.

The woman has said that she and the Flight Lieutenant were undergoing a training programme at the AFAC. On September 9, the FIR says, she suffered an ankle injury during training and took painkillers before joining other officers for a party at the bar that evening. Harmukh, who was also present, reportedly got drunk and entered her room at night after she had passed out. She said while she did not remember what had happened, her friends had discovered Harmukh in her room in the wee hours, acting suspiciously. The alleged rape is said to have occurred between 12.30 am and 3am.

The FIR says Harmukh had then contacted two of her friends, and they had recorded his “confession” accepting “sexual acts” with the woman while she was not conscious. “After seeing the video, I was shattered as this was the first time the facts became clear to me that I have been raped,” the woman said.

She has told police that along with her friends, she approached a male wing commander and a female wing commander, and both advised her to think of “all aspects” such as “family name”, while “suggesting” she file a complaint. She said she first decided not to, but when she met the two seniors again, she was asked to either file a complaint or give in writing that what had happened was consensual and there was no complaint to make.

She said that’s when her decision was made. “Something triggered (within) me on hearing such things,” she wrote.

After she filed the complaint, the wing commanders sent her to the Air Force Hospital. She said the two women doctors were not sure about the procedures to follow in a medical examination. One of them reportedly watched and re-watched the video “confession” of the accused, and asked about the woman’s “sexual history”, till her friend pointed out that they weren’t supposed to ask for evidence from a victim.

She said one of the doctors inspected her private parts, including doing the two-finger test. “Only later did I find out that the two-finger test is not supposed to be done for a rape exam,” she wrote.

The next day, she says in the FIR, she was summoned by a Group Captain, named the presiding officer of the inquiry in her case, and a Wing Commander. She said one of the officers said she was pressed for time, and asked her to give a statement immediately on whether she wanted to file a complaint or give in writing that she didn’t want to complain.

The woman said the “rude” behaviour made her change her mind about filing a complaint. However, her friend objected when she was even refused legal counsel before signing a paper saying they were withdrawing their complaint. Officers seized their phones and insisted they follow orders, the woman said, adding that they were finally let off after they stuck to their stand.

She said that what compounded her trauma was that the accused Flight Lieutenant carried on as if nothing had happened, including attending parties. “He also told some people what he had done,” the woman said. She said when she approached the commandant to ask when Harmukh would leave the programme, or she would otherwise, she was asked again to write a withdrawal statement.

She said she and her friends were called by the Group Captain, their statement drafted afresh and their signatures demanded. She said they refused as the statement was reportedly entirely different from what they had submitted earlier.

She said when she asked an instructor about when Harmukh would leave the training programme, she was told that “If I could bear with my ankle pain, I could bear with the pain of seeing my rapist sit in my class too”.

The 28-year-old said the incident left her feeling sick, and that on the intervening night of September 15 and 16, she had had a panic attack at around 2.30 am and had to be taken to the Air Force Hospital.

Finally, she said, she decided to go to police.

On Thursday, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma wrote to the Air Chief Marshal on the matter, saying they strongly condemn the conduct of the two-finger test on the woman, “violating a Supreme Court decision” and “the right to privacy and dignity of the victim”.

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