As the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore in the 1990 Ruchika Girhotra molestation case on Friday, her friend and witness in the case, Aradhana Gupta, said “justice has finally been delivered, although delayed”.
Ruchika, 14, a budding tennis player, committed suicide in 1993, three years after being molested by Rathore at the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association. Rathore was president of the tennis association, where both Ruchika and Aradhana had enrolled.
While Rathore was charged with molestation, the CBI could not make a case of abetting suicide due to want of evidence.
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A bench of Justices V Gopala Gowda and R K Agrawal today held Rathore guilty under Section 354 of the IPC, which makes outraging modesty of women a crime punishable with maximum two years in jail. However, it reduced his jail term from 18 months to the time that he has already spent behind bars on account of his “very advanced age”.
Rathore, who has spent about six months in jail after his conviction by a sessions court in 2010, is now 74. Aradhana, who now lives in Australia, and her parents have been at the forefront of the over two-decade-long legal battle.
“We are satisfied that Rathore has been convicted. Ruchika would have wanted this. He served six months in jail. I am sure he must have realised what he did. We were hoping that he would be sent to jail for one more year. But at least he has been convicted and cannot claim that he was innocent,” Aradhana told The Indian Express from Ambala, where she is on a personal visit.
“I never felt like giving up the fight. Ruchika may not have been with me physically, but she was with me in spirit… When she committed suicide, I promised myself that I would not give up till he was imprisoned. Fortunately, my parents stood by me through all this,” she said.
“Ruchika was a very lively person. After the incident, she changed completely and became quiet. Every injustice to her family pulled her down further. When her brother was picked up and thrashed, that was the lowest point for her. She felt she was responsible for what her family was going through. She committed suicide in a weak moment,” she said.
Aradhana’s father, Anand Prakash, said he attended over 400 hearings in Ambala, Patiala, Chandigarh and Delhi. He claimed that he also faced pressure from Rathore. “Nine chargesheets were filed against me. I got a clean chit in all the cases,” he said.
While maintaining Rathore’s conviction, the court held that Aradhana’s testimony remained “unimpeachable” throughout the prolonged trial.
“The molestation of Ruchika at the hands of the appellant-accused is very well proved from the deposition of PW-13
(Aradhana). There was no reason for Aradhana to depose falsely. In fact, she witnessed the actual act of molestation of Ruchika at the hands of the accused,” it noted.
“While we uphold the findings as to the guilt of the appellant-accused, we are of the opinion that the cause of justice would be best subserved when the sentence of the appellant-accused would be altered to the period already undergone,” it said.
Rejecting Rathore’s argument of false implication, the court said: “It does not stand to logic that having regard to the Indian social set-up, any father would let his daughter’s honour and reputation be damaged merely because one of his associates has his own agenda against the accused.”
Rathore had claimed that he was being framed by people who sought control of the tennis association.
The bench regretted that despite an inquiry and a recommendation by then DGP R R Singh, 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,” it said.
The court said the sequence of events established that Rathore had the “requisite culpable intention”. It also noted that “there is devastating increase in cases relating to crime against women” and hence the courts have to be cautious in ensuring that the accused are not let off on flimsy grounds.
The following is the timeline of Ruchika Girhotra’s case:
August 12, 1990 – SPS Rathore, the then IG and President, Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTA) reportedly molested Ruchika.
September 1990 – Ruchika was expelled from school for ‘indiscipline’ following her allegations against Rathore.
September 3, 1990 – An inquiry report indicted Rathore.
October 23, 1993 – Ruchika’s brother arrested in several theft cases.
December 28, 1993 – Ruchika consumed poisonous substance.
December 29, 1993 – Ruchika died.
August 21, 1998 – High Court directed CBI to conduct inquiry.
December 21, 2009 – CBI court sentenced six months of imprisonment to the accused.
January 12, 2010 – CBI registered three fresh FIRs — charging of Attempt to Murder, Abetment to Suicide and Doctoring of Documents.
November 10, 2010 – CBI filed closure.