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Justice for Ruchika? 26-year ordeal shows system can’t be changed

punjab Updated: Sep 26, 2016 18:31 IST
Ruchika Girhotra

Former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore whose conviction in a molestation case was upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday. (HT File)

SPS Rathore looked amused in most of the photographs published over the years in the media. That smirk seemed more like a permanent feature below his upturned moustache. It stood out, and made the former top cop from Haryana a much-reviled personality for the candle-lighting, justice-loving people who get most of their sense of activism from reacting to news reports.

Now, justice has been served. After all, he had molested a 14-year-old girl, budding tennis player Ruchika Girhotra, who later committed suicide. He had to be punished; and has been. No, the smirk has not been wiped off with a slap or two, nor has the moustache been shaved off in a shame-the-criminal verdict by a kangaroo court. We are not like that, you know. We go by a system. Not for nothing is our country the greatest in the world.

Also read | Ruchika Girhotra case: After 26-year fight, Anands ‘partially satisfied’ with verdict

Rathore’s conviction has been upheld by the top court of the land, though he will not have to undergo more than two-thirds of his jail sentence now. His five months in prison after the case went through several steps, from trial court to the district court to high court and then the Supreme Court, have been deemed on account of his “very advanced age”.

He is now 74. When he committed the crime, he was 48.

So thorough is our system that it took more than 26 years. Imagine how agonising it must have been for the poor old man, who never once tried to browbeat the girl’s family! For instance, he could have got the girl thrown out of her school for speaking up. But he did not. That happened on its own over some fee issue, coincidentally in a month of her filing a complaint. He could have also used his influence as a cop to have the girl’s brother thrown in jail. The brother was indeed thrown in jail. But, that too was a coincidence. Yes, believe all that, you doubt-mongers who cite logic for everything! Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways.

Another mysterious coincidence was the alleged harassment of the victim’s family friend — who fought the case to the end despite her family choosing to step back — by the Haryana government department in which he worked. These are mere allegations, of course.

There are people saying that the court’s decision is lenient. Before reaching such a conclusion, we just step back and, importantly, underline the thoroughness of the system, step by step.

No step must be missed.

The molestation happened on August 12 of 1990, at Rathore’s Chandigarh house that also served as the office for the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association, of which he was president. Her family filed a police complaint four days later. More than two weeks after that, the crime branch started an investigation against Rathore, who was then an inspector general of police. Two weeks after that, Ruchika was expelled from school.

As yet, no first-information report (FIR) was registered by the police.

That took another six years and it then took another decade for Rathore to be sentenced to six months’ jail, which was enhanced to 18 months by the HC. The SC has now upheld what the HC ruled, but let him off with the time already served in prison.

Meanwhile, in 1992-93, her brother, Ashu, was booked in a number of cases of theft, in which he was eventually acquitted. In December 1993, Ruchika killed herself. In fact, so thorough are our police that in 2010 they arrested a man accused of filing the false case against Ashu. It was also the year that the probe agency filed a closure in related cases, including attempt to murder (for Ashu’s alleged torture in custody) against Rathore.

Ruchika’s father had had enough. Attempts to get Rathore charged with abetment of Ruchika’s suicide also failed in court. He never pursued the matter again.

It was the family friend, Anand Prakash, father of Ruchika’s fellow tennis player Aradhana, who continued the fight. Aradhana’s testimony proved the key evidence to nail Rathore. Anand and Aradhana are “partially satisfied” now.

But it is Ruchika’s father, Subhash Girhotra, who stands doubly vindicated. It has been proven beyond doubt that Rathore molested the girl. And what he said six years ago, when he quit the fight, has been underlined: The system cannot be changed.