The Aligarh Muslim University on Thursday said it would extend the tenure of two doctors of the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, days after they were removed from their positions, PTI reported. One of the doctors had contradicted the police’s claim that the woman in the Hathras gangrape case was not sexually assaulted, while the other had signed a few reports about her.

“On the request of the Chief Medical officer of the hospital, received on Wednesday, the university has given its nod to the proposal to extend the tenure of the two doctors,” university spokesperson Omar Saleem Peerzada told PTI.

Four upper-caste Thakur men had raped and tortured the woman on September 14. She died of her injuries in a Delhi hospital on September 29. The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her.

Chief Medical Officer SA Zaidi had on Tuesday removed doctors – Azeem Malik and Obaid Imtiyazul Haque – a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation team probing the case visited the hospital and questioned the staff and doctors.

Malik had said that medical tests of the woman were conducted too late to conclude that the woman had not been raped. He questioned the gap between the date of the crime, September 14, and the date the tests were conducted, September 22. The forensic science laboratory had received the samples on September 25.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, however, denied their employees were suspended because of the Hathras incident and called the allegations of termination “highly speculative”. The university authorities claimed that the doctors had been hired on a temporary basis as many doctors had fallen ill, and so their sacking was a matter of routine.

But one of the doctors said he might have been sacked because he had contradicted the police’s claim that the complainant was not raped. The two doctors told reporters on Tuesday that “they were quite taken aback by this step because they had not been given a chance to present their view to the authorities”.

The resident doctors at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College on Wednesday wrote to the university vice-chancellor demanding the reinstatement of two colleagues. The letter signed by Resident Doctors Association President Mohammad Hamza Malik and general secretary Mohammad Kashif said the action against the two doctors reeked of “vendetta politics” and was aimed at muzzling the right to freedom of expression.

President of the Progressive Medicos and Scientific Forum Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti also wrote to the AMU Vice Chancellor, demanding the “revocation of the termination order of two the Medical officers”. Bhatti said it was unfortunate that two doctors have been “punished because their version contradicts the police version”.

The letter, which was sent by mail on Thursday, added that it appears that the two doctors have “paid the price for providing factually correct and scientifically sound information pertaining to the samples of the Hathras rape victim”.

Bhatti added that the incident comes at a time when universities across the country are “struggling hard to defend democratic values and the fundamental rights” of freedom of expression.

The case

The 19-year-old woman succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi on September 29. In the events that followed, the Uttar Pradesh government forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police, with the aim to stop the incident from becoming a focus of protests.

The four accused in the case have been arrested. Sandeep Thakur, the main accused, has written to the state police chief from jail claiming that the men are being framed. He had also claimed that the woman was a victim of honour killing as her family was opposed to their “friendship”. The Central Bureau of Investigation on October 10 took over the inquiry into the case.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College himself said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed.

Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.