An employee of NRS hospital arrested for allegedly molesting a patient can land in jail for life as he has been booked under a new ordinance on sexual offence that came into effect following the Delhi gang rape.
Earlier, a person charged with molestation would have been tried for outrage of modesty, which carried a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
But ward boy Rabi Pramanik has been booked under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, which describes acts of molestation as sexual assault, punishable with imprisonment for a term ranging from seven years to life.
Section 375 of Ordinance, promulgated by the President on February 3, states that touching body parts like “vagina, penis, anus or breast” will amount to sexual assault.
Police said Pramanik, 54, has been booked under a new IPC section introduced by the ordinance — 376(2)(e) — as he is an employee of the hospital and the alleged molestation occurred on the hospital premises.
“The section deals with sexual assault by someone ‘on the management or the staff of a hospital’, who commits the sexual assault in that hospital,” said an officer. Sexual assault under the new section is punishable with a jail term ranging between 10 years and life.
According to the complaint, Pramanik had molested a 28-year-old woman from Habra in North 24-Parganas moments after she had undergone a surgical procedure under anaesthesia.
“She was being wheeled out of the operating theatre on Monday when the accused is said to have sexually assaulted her. Pramanik was under the impression that the woman was unconscious,” said a police officer.
“The patient, however, was in a semi-conscious state. When she stirred, Pramanik fled. She even caught a glimpse of the accused.”
The patient narrated the incident to her relatives, who lodged complaints with the hospital and the police.
“She had not seen the man properly but could tell us that the man was short and well-built, and of dark complexion. He was in a dhoti. We picked up Rabi, as he fitted the patient’s description, from the hospital premises at 10.05am on Tuesday,” the officer said.
The police claimed that the accused had admitted to his crime. He has been remanded in police custody till March 18.
The hospital has formed a seven-member committee to probe the alleged sexual assault. The minister of state for health, Chandrima Bhattacharya, dubbed the alleged assault a “stray incident”.