Former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore was on Monday convicted of molesting a minor girl 19 years back, but escaped with a lighter six-month jail term for the crime against the budding tennis player, who committed suicide three years later.
Special magistrate J S Sidhu, while sentencing 67-year-old Rathore to six months rigorous imprisonment (RI), during in-camera proceedings also imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 on the accused who will have to further undergo one month of RI in case of default.
Under Sec 354 of the IPC, a person held guilty of molestation charge can face a prison term of up to two years. Fourteen-year-old Ruchika Girhotra was molested by Rathore, the then Inspector General of Police in Haryana and President of Haryana Lawn Tennis Association, on August 12, 1990, according to the prosecution.
She committed suicide in 1993 by drinking poison. At the time of pronouncement of verdict, Rathore and his advocate wife Abha were present in the courtroom. The victim's family and friends felt Rathore had got away with a lesser punishment.
"I think the quantum of punishment is less," said Anand Parkash, a retired Haryana government employee and Madhu's husband.
Rathore, who retired as DGP, told media persons that he will challenge the court verdict.
"I have great faith in the judicial system. So I will file an appeal by January 20. I will finally be a winner because truth will certainly prevail," said Rathore, who is entitled to bail.
Investigation into the case was handed over to the CBI in 1998. Ruchika's family moved out of Chandigarh. They alleged that they were being harassed by the police in retaliation for the case against Rathore. Madhu Parkash had approached the Punjab and Haryana High court in 1997, seeking a probe into the incident after a police report had stated that prima facie there was a case against Rathore, who encountered Ruchika in the tennis circuit.
Later in 1998, the investigation into the case was handed over to the CBI and the trial was held in a Patiala court. The case was transferred to the CBI special magistrate in Chandigarh by the Punjab and Haryana high court, which issued directions for holding day-to-day hearing and completion of trial within a month.
"I am elated that Rathore has been awarded six months of RI, but at the same time I am saddened that it took so long for the court to decide on the matter. Had the verdict against Rathore been pronounced earlier, I think Ruchika would not have committed suicide," Madhu told media persons outside the court.
Anand Parkash alleged, "Rathore was instrumental in getting the case delayed for such a long period. I will continue the fight against those police officials and bureaucrats, who helped Rathore during the trial to get the case covered up. These people are criminals and I think an example should be set up so that nobody can ever dare to think of outraging the modesty of woman."