Two-finger test not done on woman officer, claims IAF chief
No illegal two-finger test was conducted on a woman air force officer to confirm rape after she accused a flight lieutenant of the crime in Coimbatore, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari claimed on Tuesday.
“Let me assure you that the IAF is very strict when it comes to such incidents. We have no latitude for any misconduct or moral turpitude cases. The two-finger test is misreported. In actual fact, this has not been done,” Chaudhari said in response to a question on the Coimbatore rape case.
Chaudhari’s comments came during the air force chief’s customary media interaction ahead of the 89th anniversary of IAF on October 8. He said action will be taken in the case according to law.
“We are well aware of the rules. And all disciplinary action that will come out from this inquiry
(into the case) will be taken,” the IAF chief said. He took over as air chief on September 30 after Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria retired.
Coimbatore-based advocate R Mohanakrishnan, who was present in court during the hearing and handing over of the accused flight lieutenant from judicial custody to the IAF, said that since the magistrate court did not have any power in this case, the court had not recorded statements and evidence given by the victim.
“Now, the medical officers will not go against the Air Chief Marshall. The victim can only come out and say they have conducted the finger test. The only material evidence now is an entry in a register kept in the Medical Inspection room in the Air Force where any person going for a medical check has to register their name, rank and service number,” he added.
According to people aware of the developments, the victim has not engaged a personal lawyer. “As per the Air Force Act, the victim cannot keep a lawyer. The enquiry officer will be there on the side of the victim,” said Mohanakrishnan who was in service in the Air Force until the early 1990s.
According to the first information report (FIR) filed by Tamil Nadu police on September 20, which was seen by HT, the 28-year-old woman officer said she was raped on campus at the Air Force Administrative College in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district.
In the FIR, the woman officer accused IAF doctors of subjecting her to an illegal two-finger test to confirm rape, of adopting a hostile attitude towards her during the inquiry, and of tampering with the evidence, as previously reported by HT.
She reached out to the police after losing confidence in how the Air Force Administrative College was conducting the investigation, but a Coimbatore court went by the book and accepted the accused’s plea that he could only be court martialled, not tried in a civilian court.
The case comes at a time when women are being given more opportunities in the armed forces to realise their potential.
The headcount of women in the military has increased almost three-fold over the past six years, with more avenues being opened to them at a steady pace. As of February 2021, there were 9,118 women serving in the army, navy and air force.
One of the turning points for women in the military came in 2015 when IAF decided to induct them as fighter pilots. Earlier this year, the Indian Navy deployed four women officers on warships after a hiatus of almost 25 years. But tanks and combat positions in the infantry are still no-go zones for women.
The Union Public Service Commission on September 24 opened an application window for women candidates to apply for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination, 2021.
This came after the Supreme Court stressed on September 22 that it “cannot belie the aspirations of young girls” as it rejected the Union government’s request to delay the first-ever examination for women candidates for their entry into NDA, and directed that they be allowed to sit for the exam on November 14.