The Straits Times
Published on Dec 28, 2012

Indian minister defends decision to fly gang rape victim to Singapore


NEW DELHI - India's external Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, responding to a growing controversy over the move to send the 23-year-old gang rape victim to Singapore for treatment, said it was a "purely a medical decision".

"The shifting was not done due to some political reasons. It was done for medical purposes. It was purely a medical decision taken by the doctors," Mr Khurshid said.

While home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that the government wanted to give her the best treatment.

"She was shifted after taking opinions of doctors from Safdarjung hospital. Trauma doctors were also consulted. She is still critical today.

"We will give her the best of treatment. Be it Singapore, London or America we will send her wherever possible so that she recovers soon," Mr Shinde told reporters.

The comments came after an unnamed doctor who was part of a team of experts consulted about the transfer told The Hindu newspaper that they had only been asked whether it was safe to move the patient rather than if it was the best course of action, Agence France Presse news agency reported.

"The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her... She was being given the best possible care."

Samiran Nundy, chairman of the organ transplant and gastro-surgery department of Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told the newspaper the transfer made little sense.

"I just can't understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred," he said.

"It will take weeks in this case to even look into the possibility of an intestinal transplant so why hurry and take the patient out from a facility which works so well. It seems more of a political move."

The decision to fly the young woman in a special air ambulance was taken at a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet on Wednesday. The government will pay all her medical bills.

The victim is fighting for her life at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore, after the Dec 16 assault in Delhi.

Mr Singh has ordered an official inquiry into the gang-rape and promised new laws to protect women as well as stiffer penalties for the worst sex crimes.