The Delhi High Court ruled on Tuesday that the virginity test of an accused during investigation is unconstitutional. The court declared unconstitutional the virginity test conducted on Sister Steffi - the accused in the Sister Abhaya Murder Case in Kerala.
The court observed that there is no legal procedure that provides for a “virginity test" and such testing is a form of inhuman treatment. The order was passed by Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.
“It is declared that the virginity test conducted on a female detainee, accused under investigation, or in custody, whether judicial or police, is unconstitutional and in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which includes right to dignity," Justice Sharma said.
“This court, therefore, holds that this test is sexist and in violation of the human right to dignity even of a female accused if she is subjected to such a test while being in custody," the judge said.
The Delhi High Court also issued several instructions to the investigating agencies in order to ensure that officers approach such matters with certain sensibilities.
In its ruling, the court stated that the concept of “custodial dignity" includes a woman’s right to live with dignity even while in police custody and that performing a virginity test on her amounts to interference with her bodily and psychological integrity.
“Strangely, though the word ‘virginity’ may not have a definite scientific and medical definition, it has become a mark of purity of a woman. The intrusive testing procedure, as has been held in several judgments of the Hon’ble apex court, does not have a medical standing," the court observed.
Sister Steffi was arrested in November 2008, 16 years after Sister Abhaya was hacked to death. Sister Abhaya was found dead in a well on March 27, 1992 at the Pious Tenth Convent in Kottayam.
After her arrest, Sister Steffi alleged that the CBI had conducted a ‘virginity’ test without her concent. The church and activists alleged that it violated the rights of the woman.
Sister Steffi was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under the same Section in addition to seven years of rigorous imprisonment for tampering with evidence under Section 201.
Last year, the Kerala High Court granted bail to Catholic priest Thomas M. Kottur and co-convict Sister Steffi in the sensational murder case.
(With PTI Inputs)
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