Chandigarh: They were top police officers in Punjab and Haryana and both were found guilty. While one was caught molesting a teenaged girl, another slapped the posterior of a senior woman civil servant. The two cases are separated by several years, but the similarities - both cops were in the rank of director general of police (DGP) - are lost on none.
People now see former Haryana DGP S.P.S. Rathore`s conviction by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court here Monday for molesting 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra Aug 12, 1990 as proof that the police forces have been led by men who are no less than criminal.
They cite the case of Punjab "supercop" K.P.S. Gill, who was accused of outraging the modesty of Indian Administrative Service officer Rupan Deol Bajaj in July 1988.
"These senior police officials think they are above the law and they cannot be held accountable for any crime. That is why they indulge in such heinous crimes like rape and murder," Ranjan Lakhanpal, a prominent lawyer and a human rights activist, told IANS.
Lakhanpal said the entire law and the judicial system needed an overhaul to make it more effective.
For instance, Rathore`s conviction came 19 years after the incident. The victim, Ruchika, a budding tennis player who was also set to move to Canada then, committed suicide December 1993, three years after the incident, following continued harassment faced by her and her family.
This was allegedly at the behest of goons let loose by Rathore and other intimidatory tactics he used through his powerful official position. Her brother was slapped with cases of theft and the family was finally forced to move out of Haryana.
But the case against Rathore was relentlessly pursued by Anand and Madhu Prakash, the parents of Ruchika`s best friend Aradhana.
The other high-profile DGP to be convicted, K.P.S. Gill, was held guilty by various courts for outraging the modesty of Bajaj at a party in Chandigarh in July 1988. When Gill slapped the posterior of Bajaj in a drunken state, he was the Punjab DGP - just fresh from his success of Operation Black Thunder to flush out armed terrorists from the Golden Temple complex, the holiest of Sikh shrines, in Amritsar.
Gill, who continues to enjoy Z-plus security from the government as he was credited with eliminating terrorism in Punjab in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was first convicted by Chandigarh`s chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in August 1996. He was sentenced to three months` imprisonment.
The district and sessions court here in January 1998 upheld the conviction but changed the sentence to three years of probation. The Punjab and Haryana High Court here too upheld the sentence but reduced the probation to one year. The Supreme Court too upheld his conviction.
Pramod Sharma, coordinator of a city-based NGO Yuvsatta, told IANS: "It`s not just in bureaucracy or police that officials are misusing their power and position but in every field, women being at the receiving end. Even in educational institutes, hospitals and public places, women are soft targets."
"We have to actually inculcate values among children right from the school level and our policymakers should try to fill the gaps in our judiciary that leads to delayed justice. Fear of strict punishment and an early trial can certainly improve the situation," he said.
In the incident involving Gill, he never went to prison and the case took over 17 years to be decided. He was also directed to pay a compensation of Rs.200,000 to Bajaj, who refused to accept it. The amount was given to a women`s organisation by the court.
Rathore was inspector general of police (IG) in Haryana when he was accused of molesting Ruchika at his office, that of president of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTA) in Sector 6 of Panchkula town, 10 km from here.
He went on to get promotions and finally was made DGP of Haryana (October 1999 to December 2000).
The CBI court has not held Rathore guilty of abetment to Ruchika`s suicide despite the accusation that it was harassment by him that drove her to end her life.
Gill and Rathore are not the only police officers with criminal convictions.
Haryana cadre IPS officer R.K. Sharma is serving a life term in Delhi`s Tihar Jail for the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar. He was held guilty in March last year for her murder in January 1999. His conviction too came after nine long years. The Haryana government has now initiated the process to dismiss him from service.