Delhi High Court holds virginity test of accused woman unconstitutional

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The Court remarked that administering virginity tests equate to interfering with a woman's bodily integrity and has psychological ramifications, as well as having substantial and deep effects on her mental health.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday held the virginity test of a woman accused in a murder case unconstitutional.

A bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said that virginity testing involves interfering with a woman's bodily integrity and has psychological repercussions that will have a major and long-lasting influence on her mental health.

The order has been passed in a plea wherein the Central Bureau of Investigation tested sister Sephy, a nun who was found guilty in the Sister Abhaya murder case, regarding her virginity.

The court noted that "Virginity testing is a form of inhuman treatment and the same violates the principle of human dignity. The test, being violative of the right to dignity of an individual, cannot be resorted to by the State and the same shall be in teeth of the scheme of Indian Constitution and the right to life enshrined under Article 21."

Furthermore, the bench opined that some fundamental rights cannot be suspended or infringed, or abridged even when a person is in custody, and the right to dignity is one such fundamental right that falls within the ambit of Article 21.

While ruling that the virginity test as it was done was unlawful, the High Court also stated that sister Sephy may pursue legal action against the CBI for her alleged defamation.

Additionally, the Court said, "The Delhi Police Academy for Training shall also include the necessary information regarding this issue in its training curriculum. The Commissioner of Police, Delhi is also directed to ensure that the investigating officers are informed and sensitized in this regard".

It may be noted that recently the Supreme Court had also held that two finger test perpetuates patriarchy by bolstering the misconceived notion that women who are habituated to sexual intercourse cannot be raped.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud & Hima Kohli had observed that the invasive and traumatizing practice should be done away with from study materials in the medical literature of study and any person who is found guilty of conducting such a test must be dealt with strictly and the act shall be construed as misconduct.

"This Court has time and again deprecated the use of this regressive and invasive test in cases alleging rape and sexual assault. This so-called test has no scientific basis and neither proves nor disproves allegations of rape," had said the bench.

The bench was hearing the appeal by the state government against the acquittal of a man by the High Court of Jharkhand which had reversed his conviction, awarded by the Sessions Judge under Sections 302, 376, 341, and 448 of the Indian Penal Code 18601 to suffer imprisonment for life.

Case Title: Sr. Sephy Vs. CBI & Ors.