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The Judicial Magistrate Court agreed to hand over the accused in the alleged rape of a woman IAF officer.

On Thursday, September 30, The Judicial Magistrate Court in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu agreed to the appeal of the Indian Air Force to hand over the accused in the alleged rape of a woman IAF officer. The case was brought to the public's notice when the complainant filed a report to the police and consequent arrest of the alleged IAF officer Amitesh. In her FIR, the complainant gives a detailed account of what happened on the night of assault as well as of the callous treatment and harassment she received from the authorities who she tried to reach out for help, she adds that she was even subjected to the banned two-finger test during the medical examination.

The survivor told the police that she was sexually assaulted by her colleague Amitesh Harmukh on the September 10th, she explained that she had sustained an injury on the evening of September 9th for which she was given some painkillers, later that evening she and her peers went to the Officers' Mess bar, where she had two drinks, one of which Amitesh had allegedly insisted on paying for. She felt nauseous and her coursemates took her to her room and put her to bed. She reports that later she remembers being woken up by the accused lieutenant, who had entered her room non-consensually; however, she told him she wanted to sleep and asked him to leave. Upon waking up the next morning, she was questioned by her friends and with the physical evidence, she discovered that she had been raped while unconscious.


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She reached out to her seniors and the authorities to file a complaint but instead of recording the survivor's complaint and offering support, one of the women Wing Commanders whom the survivor approached said that she should think about her family and their reputation. They gave her options to either file a complaint or give a written statement that it was consul sex for which she decided to file a complaint. The authorities asked her to go to the Air Force Hospital for the medical examination, where besides taking the vaginal swabs for the test she was subjected to the two-finger test which made her relive the trauma of the sexual assault, which she only found out later was banned 8 years ago. She was also confronted about her sexual history which is also illegal according to the protocols as these processes violate the victim's right to privacy. She accused the authority of misconduct as well as lousy treatment of the case as the test samples were not sent in even on the date of filing the FIR, i.e. September 20th.

After several attempts of her asking for help from the authorities, and being subjected to intimidation, threats instead of being given justice and support, she realized that the authorities are not going to help her while she suffers and the perpetrator roams freely instead of being punished. She finally decided to file a complaint to the police on September 17, 2021; however, due to the continued misguidance, she had to even go to the Police Commissioner's office on September 20 to file her complaint leading to the arrest of Amitesh.

protest to stop rape The IAF officer was sexually assaulted while she was unconscious. istockphoto

Amitesh was held under police's custody until the 30th during which he filed an affidavit on September 25th citing Section 72 of the Indian Air Force Act, 1950; the accused said that the police had "no authority to arrest [him]. Even if the city police would have arrested him, the civil police have no authority to produce him before the Judicial Magisterial Court, Coimbatore, for remand into judicial custody. Moreover, as per Indian Air Force Act, 1950, the Court Martial, instituted to try the above offense has jurisdiction."

The court transferred Amitesh's custody back to the IAF for court-martial on 30th September. This decision came despite the survivor's demands for a police investigation, after alleged intimidation and harassment by the Air Force officials at the College where the alleged sexual assault took place, to dissuade the survivor from making a formal complaint. Amitesh was taken to Air Force Administrative College (AFAC) premises by IAF officials immediately. Amitesh's advocate and former special public prosecutor for the CBI, N. Sundaravadivelu said, "The custody is to be with Indian Air Force authorities and they will conduct the court-martial with regard to the alleged crime".

ALSO READ: The discourse of rape in India

The National Commission for Women on Thursday said it has raised its voice against the court's decision in a statement saying that it is '' .. utterly disappointed and strongly condemns the action of Indian Air Force doctors conducting the banned two-finger test on the victim, thereby violating the Supreme Court's decision and also violating the right to privacy and dignity of the victim.'' Expert opinions differ on the efficacy, transparency, and access to justice in a Court Martial, while some feel that a trial by Court Martial will lead to an expedient judgment, others worry that such cases would get lost in the military system, and a survivor would stand a better chance in a criminal court of law.

Keywords: Indian Air Force, sexual assault, court-martial, rape, judiciary, Section 72


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