Ruchika case: Age and lengthy trial helped Rathore

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Chandigarh:  While holding that his guilt has been proved to the hilt, the CBI court which convicted former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore for outraging the modesty of 14-year-old Ruchika 19 years back, awarded the lighter six months jail term to him.

Giving the reason for the offence under section 354 IPC which provides for a maximum punishment of upto two years, the court said, "the prolonged trial and the age of the convict can be considered while passing the order on quantum of sentence."

Not happy with the quantum of sentence pronounced after a 19-year-old legal battle, Anand Parkash, father of Ruchika's close friend, Aradhana, said he would press for re-opening of the case seeking a stiffer punishment for 67-year-old Rathore.

Ruchika Girhotra, a promising tennis player, was molested by Rathore, the then Inspector General of Police in 1990. She committed suicide three years later by consuming poison.

"The guilt of the convict has already been proved upto hilt. The allegations against the convict were that he assaulted and used criminal force against victim Ms Ruchika with intention to outrage her modesty and during this process, he caught hold of her hand and with his other hand caught hold of her waist, dragged her towards him and embraced her against her will and thereby outraged her modesty," the Special CBI Magistrate Jasbir Singh Sidhu said in his 97-page order.

The court which granted bail to Rathore soon after its verdict, said, "The allegations against the convict (Rathore) are proved in the present case. The allegations are of moral turpitude. Such allegations are serious in nature, particularly in the circumstances, when the victim was minor. In such circumstances, liberal view cannot be taken against the convict."

"The plea regarding media trial is also taken. In that regard...the court has concern with the facts and circumstances which are available on record only and the court is not concerned with what any other agency report about the accused or the victim. However, that cannot be a ground for taking a liberal view on quantum of sentence," the Magistrate said.

The court rejected Rathore's plea for probation in view of his good service record.

The CBI had demanded the maximum imprisonment on the ground that the "guilt of the convict is proved upto hilt. The object of the sentence should be to see that the crime does not go un-punished."

The convict (Rathore) was a high rank police officer and his duty was to protect others and he has indulged in such type of offence, the prosecution added.

The investigating agency said it will take a decision on going in appeal after considering the verdict.

Rathore's wife Abha, who was the defence counsel, on the other hand, pressed for liberal view on the ground of his age.

He has already undergone valve surgery and he requires medical help, she said.

The order said that it was alleged that on August 12, 1990 at about 12:00 noon, Rathore, President, Haryana Lawn Tennis Association molested Ruchika in the office after securing her presence on the pretext of discussions on arrangements to promote her tennis career.

Both Ruchika and Reemu usually went together for practice and also got themselves enrolled as members of the association and joined coaching in lawn tennis. Rathore used to visit the lawn tennis court in the evenings.

Ruchika was to go to Canada for a few months and had informed Rathore about it. On August 11, 1990 at about noon, Rathore visited the house of SC Girhotra and told him hat he should not send Ruchika abroad as she was a very promising player and promised to arrange special coaching for her.

She was asked to see him at noon the next day. Ruchika met Reemu and told her excitedly about Rathore's visit to her house.

Ruchika was called by Rathore while she was playing with Reemu.  "Accordingly, Ruchika accompanied by Reemu went to meet Rathore in his office and found him standing outside the office. On seeing both of them, Rathore entered his office and asked both of them to follow. Ruchika requested Rathore to talk to her outside the office, but Rathore insisted on their coming inside the office," the prosecution said.

Thereafter, Rathore asked Reemu to fetch coach T Thomas who gestured from the field that he was not coming.

"Immediately thereon, Reemu returned to the office. On entering the office Reemu found that the accused was holding one hand of Ruchika while his other hand was around her waist and Ruchika was trying to get herself released by pushing the accused with her other hand which was not held by the accused."

On seeing Reemu, Rathore released Ruchika and fell back on his chair. Both the girls ran out of the office.

According to Reemu, Ruchika informed her that as soon as the former had left to fetch the coach, Rathore had caught hold ofRuchika's hand which she got released with a lot of difficulty.

But the accused then got up from his chair and caught Ruchika's hand again and with his other hand, encircled her waist, dragged her towards himself and embraced her, the prosecution said.

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