The significance of evidence during a trial—especially a criminal trial—is well-known. The sources of evidence are plenty and aid in the process of investigation. Further, the trial process is supplemented by the addition of evidence. Medical examination of the accused and, in some cases, the victim is necessary to initiate the process of investigation, and the subsequent filing of FIR. The Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code have laid down the procedures for the medical examination of the victim and the accused. They have also defined the roles and powers of the Police Officers, Magistrates, and the Courts in this regard. Over the years, the provisions have undergone some fundamental changes to accommodate the changing social fabric of our society.
Keywords: Victim, Medical Practitioners, Police Officer, Magistrate
Every criminal trial requires evidence to support the arguments put forth by both the complainant and the respondent. Evidence can range from eyewitnesses to circumstantial evidence. Medical examination of the accused and, in cases of sexual assault, of the victim lays the foundation for a strong case.
A victim in a criminal case acts both as a complainant and a witness for the prosecution. The evidentiary value of the testimony and the medical examination of the victim is quite significant. Although, this hasn’t been well-defined in either the IPC (Indian Penal Code) or the CrPC (the Code of Criminal Procedure).
Before moving onto the crux of the topic, it is imperative to talk a bit about the definition of the word “Victim”. The Code of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2006 defines “victim” as a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression “victim” includes his or her guardian or legal heir.
The Medico-Legal Report or MLR lays the foundation for the FIR (First Information Report). Generally, the victim presents the MLR to the Court (preferably from a civil hospital, but special circumstances permit reports from a private hospital). The Court, based on MLR, cross-examines the doctor.
A special provision, Section 164A, inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure by the amendment act of 2005, lays down the procedure for medical examination of victims of sexual assault.
Conduct of the Medical Examination
By whom it is to be conducted
The Code of Criminal Procedure talks explicitly about the medical examination of the accused at the behest of the Police Officer-in-charge (Section 53 CrPC) and the medical examination of the person accused of rape (Section 53A CrPC).
When there are reasonable grounds for believing that the medical examination will bring to light evidence indicating the commission of the offence, it shall be lawful for a registered medical practitioner employed in a government hospital to conduct the medical exam. In case there is the unavailability of a government-employed doctor, the exam can be conducted by any local authority situated within 16 kms of the place where the offence is committed, at the request of the Officer-in-charge. The Police officer-in-charge need not be someone below the rank of Sub-Inspector. The police officer can also direct any other person to act on his behalf to have the medical examination, and also, if need be, use reasonable force.
Section 2, clause (h), the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 defines recognized qualifications possessed by a registered medical practitioner, whose name has been entered in a State Medical Register.
What entails the medical exam?
The examination, as defined in clause (h) Section 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, is not restricted to an examination merely of the skin or surface wounds. It includes blood tests to ascertain the presence of sedatives, alcohol or any substance—urine tests are also carried out for that matter. The nature of the case may also require an X-ray examination, or taking an electrocardiograph, DNA tests etc.
X-rays are helpful in determination sex-age superimposition, old fractures, and to locate old bullet emboli (blood clot).
Section 164A of the Code of Criminal Procedure specifies the procedure for medical examination of the victim of rape. The procedure is the same as that followed during the examination of the accused insofar as who is to conduct the examination—registered medical practitioner employed in a government hospital. However, there is an element of consent attached to this section. The woman on whom the heinous act is committed reserves the right to give consent to the conduct of the medical examination which is to be conducted by, or in presence, of a female medical practitioner. The consent for the examination can also be given by any other person competent to act on the victim’s behalf. The provision also stipulates the conduct of medical examination within 24 hours of receiving information, about the commission of an offence, by the police officer.
Several considerations need to be taken into account while taking consent:
- In case the victim has been rendered incapable of giving consent, any person competent to act on her behalf can give consent. (Generally, parents of the victim are sought in such a situation.)
- Sections 89 and 90 of the IPC provide that a victim can give consent for the examination given that she’s older than 12 years.
- Section 92 of IPC serves as an exception to the stipulation of consent under Section 164A CrPC, and the doctor can conduct the life-saving procedure on the victim without their consent.
- In case the parents of the victim seem to be against the welfare of the child, the Child Welfare Committee can be contacted. The Committee is tasked with preserving the welfare of a child, as per Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
- For a mentally challenged person, the medical examination can be conducted at the behest of a person who would reasonably act in the best interest of the victim:
- Doctors from the hospital where the victim is taken.
- Child Welfare Committee (in case the victim is a child).
- Parents or the Guardian.
- The Court under whose jurisdiction the matter falls.
- An interpreter can be preferred in case of a victim having hearing and speech disabilities.
- The consent should be signed by the victim, the witness, and the medical examiner.
Report of Examination
The procedure laid down in Section 164A CrPC also mandates the preparation and furnishing of a report of examination, having the following information:
- The name and address of the woman and of the person by whom she is brought;
- The age of the woman;
- The description of material taken from the body of the woman for DNA profiling;
- Marks of injury on the body of the woman;
- General mental state of the woman;
- Other material particulars in reasonable detail.
The report shall, in enough detail, explain every conclusion arrived at. It shall specify that due consent of the woman, or any person competent to give consent on her behalf, is obtained. The report shall also mention the time when the medical exam commenced and also the time of completion thereof. Further, after the report is finalized, it shall be forwarded to the Investigation Officer (IO) by the medical practitioner, who shall then forward the report to the Magistrate referred to in section 173 CrPC, and the report shall form part of the documents referred to under clause (a) of sub-section 5 of Section 173.
In cases of death by Suicide (Section 174 CrPC)
In case of a suicide arousing reasonable suspicion of a crime committed by any person on the victim, the police officer shall, after notifying the nearest Executive Magistrate, proceed to the crime scene post haste. The police officer should then, in the presence of two people residing in the neighbourhood of the crime scene, make an investigation. The officer shall then draw up a report consisting of an apparent cause of death, wounds—bruises, fractures, and other marks of injury on the body. The manner or the usage of an instrument/weapon, that inflicted the marks is also specified
In the case of a married woman commits suicide:
- Within seven years of her marriage;
- Death of a woman within seven years of her marriage that raises suspicion of the death being caused by the commission of an act by some other person;
- Death of a woman within seven years of marriage and a relative of a woman has requested an inquiry;
- The Police Officer considers it necessary.
Then the Police Officer shall prepare a report signed by themselves, and other persons part of the investigation, and send it to the District Magistrate or the Sub-divisional Magistrate immediately.
In case of Custodial Death (Section 176 (3) CrPC)
In cases where death, or a sexual crime, is committed in police custody, the Magistrate is empowered under Section 176(3) CrPC to have the body of the victim examined, to ascertain the cause of death and know the significance of any injuries or inflictions on the body of the victim. The medical examination and the subsequent results hold important evidentiary value. The role of the Magistrate is essential to avoid any intervention in cases where the police are suspect. Therefore an investigation, independent of a police inquiry, is made into the matter at the direction of the Magistrate.
Medical examination of the accused and the victim serves an important purpose of supplementing the processes of trial and investigation. It not only has evidentiary value but in some cases can help the victim or the accused when there is imminent danger to life or health.
The procedure for medical examination has, especially in cases of sexual crimes, evolved positively by introducing the element of consent—wherein the accused can assent to being medically examined by a registered medical practitioner. The medical examination of a victim of sexual assault is also conducted by a female medical practitioner, or at least in the presence of a female officer. This provision helps prevent the exploitation of the victim at the hands of the persons involved in the investigation and medical examination procedures.
The medical exam also, at times, leads to medical aid in cases where the victim is severely injured and is on the verge of receiving serious damage if left unattended. However, the cases of exploitation of the victim (mostly) are plenty. Therefore, due precautions are necessary while following the procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the procedure for a victim’s medical examination?
- What is the role of a police officer in the process of getting a victim or an accused examined?
- What is the concept “consent” during the process of medical examination of a victim of sexual assault?
- Who takes charge in case of a death caused or a person sexually assaulted during police custody?
- Section 53, CrPC <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/633996/>
- Section 164A, CrPC <https://devgan.in/crpc/section/164A/>
- Section 176, CrPC < https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1056026/>
- Section 174, CrPC < https://indiankanoon.org/doc/411677/>
- Medical Examination of Survivors/Victims of Sexual Violence: A Handbook for Medical Officers, <https://india.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/Violence%20Kit-1.pdf>
- Justice M.R. Mallick, Criminal Manual (2019)
- R.V. Kelkar, Criminal Procedure (6th ed., EBC)