Chandigarh, Dec. 21: Nineteen years after he allegedly molested a 14-year-old tennis player who later committed suicide, former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore was today sentenced to six months in jail, a punishment the victims friends considered too light.
Rathore, who retired in 2002, has been granted bail till a higher court decides on the appeal he said he would file.
Ruchika Girhotra had accused the officer of molesting her on August 12, 1990, when he was an inspector-general and also president of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association. She drank poison in December 1993, apparently unable to bear the harassment of her family following her complaint.
Had the verdict been pronounced earlier, I think Ruchika would not have committed suicide, said Madhu Prakash, mother of Ruchikas friend Anuradha, lone eyewitness to the alleged molestation, according to PTI.
An internal inquiry had indicted Rathore but no action was taken against him. In 1994, he was appointed director-general of police.
Madhu and husband Anand Prakash filed a case in Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1997 after the police told them there was a prima facie case. The court ordered a CBI inquiry in 1998, and the agency filed the chargesheet in a CBI court in 2000.
The sentence could have been more, Madhu said. Rathore has been convicted of assaulting a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty, an offence that carries a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
Ruchika committed suicide because Rathore had been harassing her family to withdraw the complaint. Several cases of car thefts were slapped on her brother. She was expelled from her school for indiscipline, a friend of the Girhotras said. The family moved out of Haryana long ago, apparently because of the harassment.
Ruchika and Anuradha were among 60-odd trainees at the state tennis association in Panchkula.
Ruchika was to travel to Canada for a few months and had told Rathore about it. On August 11, 1990, Rathore visited the Girhotra home to persuade her father not to interrupt Ruchikas training by sending her abroad. He promised to arrange special coaching for her.
While the two girls were at the nets the next day, a ballboy told them Rathore had sent for Ruchika. When they met him together, according to the CBI, Rathore told Anuradha to go and call the coach.
Returning without being able to find the coach, Anuradha allegedly saw Ruchika struggling to free herself from Rathores clutches.
On August 14, Rathore summoned Ruchika again. The girls did not go; instead they decided to tell their parents.
I couldnt sleep for nights, Anuradha said. For 19 years, weve been waiting for this.