Rathore`s plea against conviction, jail rejected

Castigating former DGP SPS Rathore for his "shameful" conduct and "betrayal" of trust, the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld his conviction and 18-month jail term for molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra two decades ago.

Chandigarh: Castigating former DGP SPS
Rathore for his "shameful" conduct and "betrayal" of trust,
the Punjab and Haryana High Court today upheld his conviction
and 18-month jail term for molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra
two decades ago.

"He should have acted as a guardian of the society,
but his act was shameful... The responsibility put on the
petitioner, by the system of which he was an important
functionary, was completely betrayed by him," Justice Jitendra
Chauhan said in his 102-page order dismissing his plea against
the conviction and sentence.

Rejecting the petition of 68-year-old Rathore for
release on probation from Burail Jail here, the judge said,
"The question whether the petitioner is entitled to the
benefit of probation is best answered by posing another
question - Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes (But who is to
guard the guards themselves?)".

The judgement was pronounced in the presence of
Rathore`s counsel-wife Abha, CBI lawyers and relatives and
friends of Ruchika, who had committed suicide three years
after the incident in Panchkula on August 12, 1990.

Hailing the verdict, Ruchika close friend and only
eyewitness in the case, Aradhana, said, "Justice has
prevailed".

The verdict came three months after his sentence was
enhanced to 18 months imprisonment by a Sessions Court from
six months awarded by a trial court in December last year for
molesting 14-year-old Ruchika, a budding tennis player.

Rathore, whose escape with a lighter sentence from a
trial court sparked an outrage, has been lodged in the high-
security jail here since the May 25 verdict on an appeal by
CBI and Ruchika family seeking a maximum of two-year
imprisonment.

"There were certain mitigating factors for taking a
lenient view for his (Rathore`s) release on probation like his
old age, heart ailment, protracted trial, ailment of his
daughter and his unmarried daughters and there are certain
aggravating factors," the court said.

The most relevant factor in this regard is the
official position held by the petitioner vide which he was
supposed to act as a guardian and protector not just for his
immediate family but to the entire society, the court said.

"In a situation like this where the young child was
trying to wrestle with injustice done to her by the public
servant who under oath of his office is supposed to be her
guard, the victim cannot be left to the mercy of the powerful
and mighty," the judge said.

Stressing that the justice delivery system has to take
up the responsibility in such cases, the court said it was
needed to advance justice by enhancing the faith and
confidence of the victims and also the common man in the
justice delivery system.

"To be firm in dealing with crime against the
vulnerable sections of the society, particularly women, is the
requirement of the time and its relevance if not appreciated
shall cause loss of faith of the common man in the State
institutions and particularly in the judicial system.

"People with privilege and power must be conscious of
their prestige. If they prostitute their power and position,
punishment should be in proportion to the crime," the court
held.

Abha Rathore had filed the review petition on his
behalf in the High Court on May 26. Sources close to Rathore, former Haryana DGP,
maintained that he would move the apex court against the court
order.

Ardhana, whose parents had fought the case along with
the Girhotras, said, "I really appreciate the judiciary for
taking such a stand.... It has really strengthened the
people`s confidence in the judiciary once again.

"He (Rathore) should have been a saviour but he became
a molestor.... It was the most shameful thing to do... being
an officer," she said, stressing that "exemplary" punishment
should be given to people at high positions for such crimes.

"We have to take a stand... give harsh punishment for
such acts so that the women in the country could feel safe,"
she said.

"The judiciary has proved that law is equal for all,"
Aradhana`s father Anand Parkash said, adding, "It has been
proved that those indulging in such crimes against women will
not go scot free irrespective of their position in society."

Prakash`s wife Madhu is the main complainant in the
case.

"On scrutinizing the entire evidence, importantly the
memorandum which was signed by Ruchika, the eye witness
account of Aradhna and on the basis of investigation conducted
in the case, the truthfulness of the version of the
prosecution is fully established," the court said.

"There is sufficient evidence and corroboration in the
instant case to establish the guilt of the petitioner
(Rathore) and there is no circumstance warranting the
petitioner to be entitled to the benefit of doubt," it said.

Referring to Abha`s contention that no sane man would
commit such an act, the judge said the argument had "no
relevance.

"Physical lust makes a man blind and even though it is
a momentary lapse of morality which shuts down the reasoning
ability of a man, the consequences are disastrous, as has
already been seen in the present case. A man possessed by
physical lust cannot see anything beyond his immediate
target," he said.

The court noted that Ruchika committed suicide in
1993, allegedly under tremendous pressure from the petitioner
who on account of his high civil position harassed the girl
and her family to no end.

"Separate proceedings are pending against the
petitioner in this Court which is dealing with the allegations
against him, regarding abetment to commit suicide by Ruchika,"
the judge said.

"Those allegations are neither a part of this case nor
the evidence brought on record of this case deals in any
manner with the allegations of abetment to suicide.

"However, it was important to highlight the fact of
death of Ruchika by suicide since from thereafter, the
responsibility of carrying the case to its logical end was
taken up by Madhu Parkash, mother of Aradhna and by her
husband Anand Parkash," Justice Chauhan said.

The judge said that the former Haryana DGP wielded
considerable clout over the state police even though he was on
deputation at that time.

"The conduct of petitioner only leads to the inference
that his mind was guilty and he wanted to ensure that his
guilt stayed hidden," the High Court said.

Two fresh FIRs were registered by the CBI in January
this year on the basis of complaints filed by Ruchika`s father
S C Girhotra and brother Ashu accusing Rathore of committing
serious offences including attempt to murder, wrongful
confinement, giving false evidence and doctoring post-mortem
report of Ruchika.

Rathore`s plea for quashing of the third FIR under
section 306 IPC (abetment to suicide) had been referred to a
High Court division bench. He had stated that the issue had
been settled earlier even at the level of the Supreme Court.

In his order, Justice Chauhan rejected various
contentions of Rathore that Aradhana was a planted or
tutored witness.

The court observed that in the cross examination
nothing at all came out which in any way could doubt the
authenticity of the eye witness or the veracity of her
deposition.

Moreover, the demeanour of the witness, of which the
trial court is the best judge, also did not cast any doubt in
the mind of the trial court judge or else he would have
observed something regarding the same, the judge said.

The court further said that more so, the argument of
planting a witness is directed towards Anand Parkash.

"It is unbelievable that a man would put his
daughter`s future and possibly honour as well, at stake just
to settle his scores and that too by planting her against a
man who was even at that time a very powerful official, going
by his status," the judge said.

The Judge also did not accept the plea of Rathore`s
counsel wife Abha that Aradhana`s witness was "hearsay
evidence".

"Even if hearsay evidence has crept in the testimony
of Aradhna, It does not in any way dilute her eye witness
account," the Judge said adding that Aradhna was not "a chance
witness." She accompanied the victim to the office of the
petitioner with the knowledge that the petitioner had called
the victim to meet him.

The court said that there is no doubt there was a
delay of about six days in presenting the complaint to the SHO
concerned but the same has been duly explained.

"Having regard to the facts of the case, it was not
possible for the molested girl to straight away go and lodge
an FIR against the accused who happened to be a very senior
police officer," the judge said.

The judge did not accept the contentions of Rathore`s
counsel that the enquiry conducted by the then DGP R R Singh
was biased against him and termed it as "diversionary
tactics".

"It is not understandable as to why did the petitioner
took such a strict stand of not joining the Inquiry
proceedings," the court said adding the conduct of petitioner
only leads to the inference that his mind was guilty and he
wanted to ensure that his guilt stayed hidden.

The judge noted that Rathore has indulged in "liberal
character assassination of Anand Parkash and SC Girhotra. The
idea behind this approach was probably to prejudice the court
to an extent that their efforts in establishing the guilt of
the petitioner should appear tainted and unworthy of any
credit.

"However, this Court cannot be swayed in favour of the
petitioner by this strategy."

PTI

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