Observing that a number of cases where victims were made to consume date-rape drugs or similar intoxicating substances mixed with drinks or food, a Sessions court here has pointed out the need for sensitising investigating officers, prosecutors and hospital staff on the procedures they would need to follow to bolster the collection of evidence in such cases.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau made these observations while convicting Harish, an employee at a mobile phone repair shop, to rigorous imprisonment for ten years for the repeated rape on a 21-year-old Delhi University student after drugging her.

Ms. Lau said: “This court has observed that recently there has been an increase in number of cases where women have been surreptitiously administered drugs and sexually exploited thereafter...Law enforcement agencies are seeing a pattern of women being surreptitiously drugged for the purpose of rape, particularly through use of odorless, tasteless incapacitating drugs that produce anterograde amnesia.”

The court said that a large number of drugs were freely available in the market which are used to assist in execution of drug facilitated sexual assault. “These are called date-rape drugs, because of the effects of these drugs, victims may be physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and unable to remember what happened.”

The court said the free availability and sale of these drugs was a matter of national concern because of its connection with women’s safety.

“It is a known fact that detection of these drugs is a difficult issue and unless a victim seeks medical care within 72 hours of the assault, it is less likely that the tests would successfully detect the presence of these drugs, since most of them become metabolised and eliminated from the body, resulting into a negative report.”

Ms. Lau said that when a case of sexual assault after being drugged is reported the laboratories would need to conduct not just a broad drug screening but also specific drug screening (knowing the drug's effects and which drug to test for) which “unfortunately is not being done”. The judge said that agencies were not getting all kinds of samples (blood, urine, sputum and hair samples) collected in such cases.

Awareness

“Unfortunately, we in our criminal justice system are not as updated as we should be and I regret to observe that there is an urgent requirement of sensitising the investigating officers and the prosecutors on date-rape drugs. There is also no awareness/sensitisation of hospital staff to make the testing of the date-rape drugs a compulsory part while collecting exhibits.”

Referring to the legal problems, the court said: “For prosecutors there is a difficulty in proving the intent or lack of consent where the rape or assault happened without witnesses (particularly in a private home) and where both parties were consuming drugs or alcohol since neither was able to legally give consent. Independent proof of forced consumption of drugs or forced sexual activity is seldom available. It is thus equally necessary for those dealing with the issues on the judicial side to be informed, updated and sensitised with the issues involved.”

The advocate for Delhi Commission for Women Vandana Chauhan said the forum would take up this issue with the Police Commissioner and the Delhi Government.

More In: Delhi