The former Director General of Police was sentenced to six months in jail for molesting Ruchika Girhotra in 1990. The legal battle took over two decades.
Chandigarh: Former Haryana Director General of Police S.P.S. Rathore being invited as a VIP guest for a Republic Day event in Panchkula comes after a 26-year-long battle to bring him to justice for molesting 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra.
A complaint was filed against Rathore, then an inspector general, three days after he molested the teenager in August 1990. An inquiry report indicted him and recommended an FIR, but no action was taken.
Ruchika was thrown out by her school, and confined herself to her house. Six false cases were registered against her brother. In 1993, Ruchika committed suicide.
It was only in 1999, after the intervention of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, that an FIR was finally filed against the senior police officer.
Ruchika’s friend Aradhana, who was the lone witness in the case, was also harassed. Aradhana was dragged to court in numerous civil cases filed by Rathore, as were journalists covering the case, and lawyers fighting it. Aradhana’s father Anand Prakash, a Haryana government employee, faced harassment at work, including frequent transfers and bad annual confidential reports.
Rathore, with the backing of successive chief ministers Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal and Om Prakash Chautala, kept getting promoted despite the case, and became the state’s Director General of Police in 1999.
The CBI, which was tasked with investigating the case, filed its chargesheet in November 2000. During the trial, a CBI court judge added Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to suicide) against Rathore. However, the state high court quashed the order and Rathore was tried only for molestation.
The trial dragged on for almost 10 years as the high court transferred the trial from Ambala to Patiala, and then to Chandigarh, on Rathore’s request. Rathore was finally convicted by a special CBI court on 21 December 2009. He was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 1,000.
Rathore appealed against the conviction, but after a local court dismissed his appeal, he was arrested on 25 May 2010 and sent to jail. The court also enhanced his sentence from six months to 18 months.
On 1 September 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed his appeal challenging the conviction and sentence.
In his order, Justice Jitendra Chauhan observed: “He was supposed to act as a guardian and protector not just for his immediate family but to the entire society. In a situation like this where the young child was trying to wrestle with injustice done to her by the public servant who under oath of his office is supposed to be her guard, the victim cannot be left to the mercy of the powerful and mighty… People with privilege and power must be conscious of their prestige. If they prostitute their power and position, punishment should be in proportion to the crime. The responsibility put on the petitioner, by the system of which he was an important functionary, was completely betrayed by him. The act of the petitioner was shameful to say the least.”
On 11 November 2010, the Supreme Court granted him bail, and he walked out of jail the next day.
In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction noting: “Despite the fact that R.R. Singh had recommended the registration of a case against the appellant-accused, no action was taken by the state government. It is most surprising that no value was attached to the said report and to the recommendations made by such a high ranking police officer i.e., Director General of Police, Haryana.”
However, the apex court reduced the sentence to six months due to Rathore’s age. It was the amount of time Rathore had already served in jail and he was released. But his legal battles may not be over yet.
In 2009-10, three fresh FIRs — accusing Rathore of attempting to murder Ruchika’s brother Ashu, abetting the teenager’s suicide and doctoring documents were filed. The CBI, which was investigating the three cases, has closed its investigations in two of them. It is yet to submit its findings in the abetment to suicide case as proceedings in the matter are still on in the high court.
In 2010, a PIL was filed by World Human Rights Protection Council seeking action against those responsible for promoting Rathore despite a criminal complaint pending against him. The petitioners had demanded action against Ruchika’s school for expelling her allegedly under pressure from Rathore.
“The next hearing of the PIL is on February 15,” said advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal, who has filed the PIL.
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