The Supreme Court upheld on Friday the conviction of former Haryana director general of police SPS Rathore for molesting a 14-year-old budding tennis player, Ruchika Girhotra, who later committed suicide.
However, the top court reduced his sentence from one-and-half years to the number of days he has already spent in jail during the course of the trial. The retired officer was imprisoned for about five months.
On August 12, 1990, Ruchika and friend Aradhana Prakash visited Rathore’s home that doubled up as the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTA) office in Sector 6, Panchkula.
He sent Aradhana away on the pretext of calling a coach and molested Ruchika. Her ordeal continued till Aradhana returned, the friend said in her testimony that led to the officer’s conviction in the trial court.
Rathore moved the apex court after the Punjab and Haryana high court upheld a trial court order convicting the top cop in the criminal case. The high court enhanced his sentence from six months to 18 months.
Friday’s verdict caps a 26-year fight for justice for Ruchika who committed suicide in December 1993, three years after she lodged a complaint against Rathore for his misbehaviour.
The Girhotras alleged that Rathore, who was inspector general of police at the time, hounded the family and even got Ruchika’s brother, Ashu, arrested. Ruchika too was expelled from school within a month of her complaint.
The family accused the powerful police officer of pushing her to suicide.
SC Girhotra, the girl’s father, did not answer phone calls on Friday. The family usually avoided media.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice MB Lokur dismissed the former top cop’s defence that the girl’s father held a grudge and falsely implicated him.
“It would, however, be unusual in a conservative society that a woman would be used as a pawn to wreak vengeance,” it remarked.
Aradhana’s parents, Madhu and Anand Prakash, were partially satisfied with the verdict. The couple had fought hard. “Rathore was DGP and close to then chief minister Om Prakash Chautala. There was a mental torture during those days,” the 67-year-old Madhu said.
Husband Anand, who was a chief engineer with the Haryana State Agriculture Marketing Board, faced frequent transfers and political pressure.
“Rathore got more than nine charge-sheets issued against me. I was suspended for two years because of this case. But these emboldened me to fight back,” he said.
After the special CBI court convicted Rathore, the prosecuting agency registered three cases against the top policeman. These were for abetment to suicide, attempt to murder and doctoring of documents.
However, the CBI closed last two cases citing lack of evidence. The third, related to abetment to suicide, is pending.