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An estimated 3-minute read

An Infinite Battle-The Ruchika Girhotra Case

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An innocent girl, an avid tennis player, 14-year old Ruchika Girhotra had not the faintest idea of what fate held in store for her, when she walked into the office of the then Inspector General of Police and head of Haryana Lawn Tennis Federation, S P S Rathore. 

What commenced as a crime of molestation committed on a young girl has today, after 19 years and pittance of a punishment, translated into the molestation of the faith that the people of this nation vest in the judiciary and investigation authorities. Though an internal police inquiry had found him guilty within two weeks, according to Haryana’s former Home Secretary, J K Duggal, ‘political pressure’ prevented the filing of an FIR 

As if the meager punishment that has been awarded to the offender was not enough to humiliate the tireless efforts put in, there is incessant political mud-slinging about which government is responsible for burying the truth or which is responsible for promoting Rathore to higher ranks. 

It very conveniently lost sight of the fact that plight of the victim’s family is not lessened by discussions of how or why the offender was glorified after having committed a crime. 

To my opinion, this case highlights not just the failure of the judiciary in handing warranted punishment to Rathore but also seeks to ignite an argument on the need to free the judicial and investigating authorities from the clutches of politicisation. 

There is public outcry when a judgment such as this is pronounced, but the problem has to be dealt with at the grass-root level. Such cases, instead of being opportunities to wash dirty linen in public and proclaim ‘self as saint’ on the part of many officials, must be treated as an eye opener to the current situation.  

The case discloses a harrowing tale of what a victim’s family was made to go through for 19 long years. It has been stated by the father of the victim that successive chief ministers, including Bhajan Lal, the late Bansi Lal and Chautala ‘virtually shielded’ Rathore and promoted him. 

It is a wonder why the offender was not tried for abetment to suicide though in the initial stages itself, the special CBI Court Ambala held that a case for abetment to suicide was also made out. 

It is of little consequence that the victim took the ultimate decision of ending her life after three years of the incident and this should not mitigate the punishment nor absolve the offender of any possible charge. 

The extreme anguish that went on in her mind due to constant harassment of her family by the police compelled her to end her life. This case shows in a brazen manner the treatment that victims of molestation, rape and other instances of outraging of a woman’s modesty receive. As far as the woman is concerned there is not much difference. All of them are indicators of a society dominated by political whims, administrative hassles and judicial incapacity, and not to forget, social ostracisation. 

The Union Law Minister, M Veerappa Moily immediately spoke of ‘fast-tracking’ cases relating to women, especially those of rape, dowry and molestation. According to Moily, classification and prioritisation would ensure that such cases were fast-tracked in courts.

However, what has to be ensured is that such plans are actually put into practice so that the anguish faced by the family of Ruchika Girhotra is not endured by any other. 

As the State toyed with the idea of whether to place Rathore under Section 305 (abetment of suicide of a minor) or Section 306 (abetment of suicide of a major), the accused had been projecting himself as a hapless victim of the media.

Though the Special Public Prosecutor, CBI, C P Pandey, has said that they have received the requisite sanction to file an appeal for enhancement of Rathore’s six month sentence, the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge R S Atri has extended SPS Rathore’s bail till 8 February 2010. 

What remains to be seen however, is whether the public outcry and the immediate pacifying announcements by the State, in actuality do help the family of Ruchika Girhotra to taste justice. 

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