Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > May 3, 2008 > Nandigram Act II - Rape and Democracy in West Bengal

Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 20

Nandigram Act II - Rape and Democracy in West Bengal

Friday 9 May 2008, by Soumya Guhathakurta

- “We have broken the backbone of the inhabitants of Nandigram. There will be no further resistance there.”
- —Lakshman Seth, CPI-M Member of Parliament, to the Chief Minister of West Bengal
- (Reported in Dainik Satesman, Kolkata, of April 27, 2008)

We are passing through difficult times. Radharani Ari of Nandigram has been raped. Those believing in the politics of negating the truth by its repeated denial have got into the act. That rape had occurred on March 14 at Nandigram was earlier denied by the ‘creamy’ (sic) layer of the CPI-M. There was earlier a denial about the involvement of CPI-M apparatchiks in the rape and murder of Tapasi Malik at Singur. It is therefore not surprising that the CPI-M will deny the sexual assault and rape of Radharani Ari.

However, it is frightfully shocking when medical professionals, in total disregard of ethical norms that the profession entails on its practitioners, join the ruling party in its politics of negating the truth by its denial and use their professional knowledge and skills to reinforce the party’s heinous claims. The news byte carried by all daily newspapers, including the party’s mouthpiece and the electronic media, was of the Super of the State-owned P.G. Hospital, Kolkata’s statement:

The Medical Board’s report says that that the assaulted/attacked (aakranto in Bangla) Radharani Ari has not been raped.

The question that arises is: whether the Super is empowered, in his official capacity, to make such a statement. Only the chief of the Medical Board, looking into the case, can make a statement on the case. Was the Super’s act of assuming the Medical Board’s authority an attempt to conceal the unpleasant truth? Further, the moot question is: whether medical professionals are permitted, by their code of professional conduct, to conclude in their report if a person has been raped or not.

We believe that if any medical professional does so then he/she is in fact, exceeding his/her brief because rape is a criminal offence that has its own legal definition and jurisprudence. In fact, it is not an ailment which can be diagnosed and treated by a medic. The medical professional’s role has been clearly elucidated in the authoritative Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and attention may be drawn to this relevant portion of the text wherein it is stated that

…. The medical officer should not give his opinion that no rape has been committed. Rape is a crime and not a medical condition. Rape is a legal term and not a diagnosis to be made by the medical officer treating the victim. The only statement that can be made by the medical officer is that there is evidence of recent sexual activity. Whether, the rape has occurred or not is a legal conclusion, not a medical one.
-(11 edition, 1993, p. 369)

It is therefore clear that the specialist doctors transgressed their limits to commit this heinous and nefarious act. However, it needs to be emphasised that such an act in obeisance to political powers in gross violation of professional ethics cannot wish away the offence committed, by just saying that “Radharani Ari has not been raped”. History has numerous instances of medical professionals having associated covertly or overtly with the nefarious designs of political parties that are in power. The medical professionals who were part of the medical board of P.G. Hospital, Kolkata, added their names to this despicable list.

IT has been rightly said by Saonli Mitra and Subhaprasanna et al. in a press conference that the most important evidence in a case of rape is the deposition of the victim and perhaps that is the only evidence that ought to be considered by the investigating agencies/courts. The Supreme Court of India has, in its many pronouncements/judgements, given legal recognition to this principle. It may be pointed out that nowhere in the law of evidence in India is it stated that the victim’s deposition will not be considered as good evidence until and unless it is supported by medical reports. A1993 Supreme Court judgement (AIR,1990,SC658) states that in a case of rape, seeking corroborative evidence, tantamount to casting aspersion on the victim as an accomplice to the act, adding to her pain and woe, is also an insult to womanhood. In fact, in the 1950s, the Supreme Court had laid down that in a case of rape it is the deposition of the victim that is of prime importance, any additional evidence is also welcome (“matter of prudence”; AIR, 1952, SC54). In the 1972 Supreme Court judgement in the famous case of Gurcharan Singh (1972 2 SCC 749) it was held that

Corroboration of the statement of the prosecutrix (or the victim) is a rule of prudence and not of law. It is not absolutely essential.

It therefore follows that even if the Medical Board opines, under pressure from political bosses, that that there was no occurrence of rape, such an opinion will not be sufficient to brush the truth under the carpet. The powers that be know it all and so, says Brinda Karat (a member of the CPI-M Polit-Bureau) in one of her essays, that “do not make the victim culpable”. She forgot to state: except in the State of West Bengal.

Democracy does not mean a rule of the might of a government that commands electoral majority. It ought to be rather a rule of conscience, principles and values. However, in West Bengal we have heard the swan song of these norms a long while ago. It is this state of affairs that is frightening—a State where the weak, the victim is punished, where the perverted state of mind of the party in power and its violent manifestations are established as the norms of democracy, a democratic order where Opposition has to be killed and destroyed by every possible means. This mentality or state of mind needs to be defeated; only then will democracy survive in West Bengal.

(Courtesy : Dainik Statesman)

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