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19 years later,Ruchika Girhotra’s tennis partner returns for Judgment Day

“It is a very old issue now. Stop bothering about it,” said S.P.S. Rathore,former DGP,Haryana,to media persons assembled outside the special CBI court in Chandigarh....

Written by Dinker Vashisht | Chandigarh |
December 20, 2009 4:14:56 am

“It is a very old issue now. Stop bothering about it,” said S.P.S. Rathore,former DGP,Haryana,to media persons assembled outside the special CBI court in Chandigarh. Rathore had come for the hearing in the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case,in which he is prime accused.

It has been more than 19 years since Rathore,who was then an Inspector General in the Haryana Police,was accused of molesting 14-year-old Ruchika who committed suicide four years later.

It may be an old issue for Rathore but for Aradhana Gupta,Ruchika’s friend and the lone witness in the case,the ‘issue’ and its memories are still fresh.

Aradhana,who was 13 then,has flown in from Australia where she lives with her husband,for the judgment on Monday. “I was 13 when it happened. Ruchika died four years later. I have never been able to forgive myself for not being able to prevent her death. It will give me some satisfaction now is if justice is done,” says Aradhana.

In 2003 too,she had flown back from Sydney to give her version to the CBI after the Supreme Court had upheld the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order for a CBI inquiry

Back in 1990,Ruchika and Aradhana were both budding tennis players and neighbours. “I still remember both of us watching Steffi Graf take on Monica Seles on TV and then trying those shots on the court at the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTA),Panchkula,

It was here on August 12,1990,that Rathore,who was also president of the HLTA,allegedly molested Ruchika. According to Aradhana,“He had called her in his office on some pretext. She took me along but he sent me out to fetch the coach. When I came back,I saw Rathore molesting Ruchika and she struggling to break free. On seeing me,he let her go.”

Ruchika who did not have a mother was initially hesitant to tell her father and brother but two days later when Rathore called her again,the girls decide to confide in Aradhana’s mother.

“When our family decided to take up the case and file a memorandum,people warned her that this could get ugly but she was firm that she wanted exemplary punishment for him so that it sets up a deterrent,” says Aradhana.

But they were not prepared for what followed. No action was taken against Rathore instead there began a systematic campaign to harass Ruchika’s family. Her teenage brother,Ashu was picked up by police for being “involved” in half-a-dozen car theft cases. “They warned her that they would do the same to her father,if she did not withdraw the complaint. Goons were stationed outside her house who would accost her,harass her. Even for a short trip to nearby market,she would first call me over to her place. Hooligans would come and smash windows of her house. She was expelled from her school on charges of indiscipline,” remembers Aradhana.

A traumatised Ruchika committed suicide on December 29,1993. Shortly after that,her brother was released soon after and later he was absolved in all cases.

Aradhana too faced much harassment,close to ten civil cases were registered against her too. “I went on to do MBA at Kurukshetra University. Some people would stalk me there,asking me to withdraw my complaints or to turn hostile,” she recollects.

But she continued fighting,as did her father Anand Prakash. Now 67,Prakash,an engineer,who retired from Haryana government says,“ I had a clean record in service,but after 1990,there were seven complaints made against me under Rule 7,six complaints under Rule 8,there were five 5 surcharge notices and one adverse entry. At the time of retirement I was exonerated under all.”

After Ruchika’s father and brother went underground for a while after meeting much harassment,it was left to Parkash to pursue the case-he’s appeared at least 450 times before various courts.

Even now that they are back,it is Prakash who is following the case. “It has been a long fight but we’ve met some good too along the way. But despite being held guilty by the CBI nothing was done against Rathore,and he went on to become DGP.”

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