With the Delhi government yet to start a centralised purchase mechanism for kits used to preserve evidence in medical examination of rape victims despite a 2009 Delhi High Court order making them mandatory, several hospitals are awaiting fresh supplies of these kits, with old stocks fast expiring.
At a workshop to sensitise doctors in dealing with victims of sexual assault organised by the department of women and child development, with NGO Pratidhi, doctors from many hospitals pointed out the dire shortage of these kits, manufactured by Maharashtra-based NGO Centre for Enquiry Into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT). The kits gather and preserve necessary forensic and medical evidence.
A doctor from Sardar Patel hospital in Patel Nagar told government officials, including minister for women and child development Kiran Walia, that with no government supply, the hospital had last purchased these kits with their local budget soon after the HC order.
“This year most of these kits have expired, and there is no new budget allocation for them. Thankfully, we have not got any sexual assault case so far this year, but what should we do if we get any case?” she questioned.
Without the kits, many hospitals, which until recently also included AIIMS, were preserving evidence like vaginal swabs, cervical mucus and nail scrapings in test tubes wrapped in surgical gloves, the victim’s clothes in plastic coverings or simple paper sealed with haphazardly put Leukoplast adhesive tapes.
“The CEHAT kit contains simple tools like a white chart paper, where a victim can be made to stand so that every evidence can be preserved. Sometimes crucial evidence like garments or ornaments get lost in the confusion in hospitals — so the idea is to have everything drop on the white chart paper. There are air- and water-tight tubes with sealed coverings, and wooden sticks for nail scrapings, to ensure no samples get damaged,” a doctor from AIIMS trauma centre explained.
Representatives of NGO Pratidhi explained that in the early 2000s, long before the HC order, the kits were made mandatory by the Delhi Police in a voluntary initiative, where it became the responsibility of the police to distribute the kits to hospitals. “But this provision was withdrawn in subsequent orders as investigating officers failed to deliver these kits for every case of assault. After the HC order in 2009, to my mind it is the responsibility of the health department and hospitals to procure these kits,” Raaj Mangal