The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea of disgraced former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore challenging his conviction and 18-month sentence for molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra two decades ago, saying his conduct as a top official was "shameful".
"He should have acted as a guardian of the society, but his act was shameful," Justice Jitendra Chauhan said in his 104-page order pronounced in the presence of 68-year-old Rathore's counsel-wife Abha, the CBI lawyers and relatives and friends of Ruchika, who had committed suicide three years after the incident in Panchkula on August 12, 1990.
Rejecting his plea for release on probation, the judge observed, "There were certain mitigating factors for taking a lenient view for his (Rathore's) release on probation like his old age, heart ailment, protracted trial, ailment of his daughter and his unmarried daughters and there are certain aggravating factors as well like his official position."
The verdict came three months after his sentence was enhanced to 18 months imprisonment by a Sessions Court from six months awarded by a trial court in December last year for molesting 14-year-old Ruchika, a budding tennis player.
Rathore, whose escape with a lighter sentence from a trial court sparked an outrage, has been lodged in high-security Burail Jail in Chandigarh since the May 25 verdict on an appeal by CBI and Ruchika family seeking a maximum of two-year imprisonment.
Rathore's lawyer-wife Abha Rathore had filed the review petition on his behalf in the High Court on May 26.
Hailing the verdict, Ruchika close friend and only eyewitness in the case, Aradhana, said, "Justice has prevailed.
"I really appreciate the judiciary for taking such a stand.... It has really strengthened the people's confidence in the judiciary once again," said Ardhana, whose parents had fought the case along with the Girhotras.
"He (Rathore) should have been a saviour but he became a molestor.... It was the most shameful thing to do... being an officer," she said, stressing that "exemplary" punishment should be given to people at high positions for such crimes.
"We have to take a stand... give harsh punishment for such acts so that the women in the country could feel safe," she said.
"The judiciary has proved that law is equal for all," Aradhana's father Anand Parkash said, adding, "It has been proved that those indulging in such crimes against women will not go scot free irrespective of their position in society."
Prakash's wife Madhu is the main complainant in the case.
Sources close to Rathore maintained that he would move the apex court against the court order.
The judge observed that the defence had failed to inspire confidence and, therfore, the conviction of the accused by the lower court was maintained.