New Delhi: All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) expresses its shock and deep dismay at the manner in which the molestation case of the minor girl Ruchika Girhotra was handled by the criminal justice system of our country, and the trivialisation of the crime as reflected in the six month sentence handed out to the former DGP of Haryana, SPS Rathore, after 19 long years.
The case highlights the serious infirmities in our justice delivery system and in the sexual assault law relating to minors. It also shows how influential people can manipulate the system to deny justice.
Ruchika, a young girl aged 14, had been molested by the then IG of Police, S P S Rathore, 19 years back in August 1990. Subsequently when Ruchika lodged a complaint about this incident, she along with her friend Aradhana and their family were harassed and intimidated by threats through phone calls and other means. Their freedom to move was severely restricted.
False cases were also lodged against Ruchika’s brother. It has been reported that Ruchika committed suicide as she couldn’t bear the trauma and harassment. Ruchika’s family was forced to move out of Chandigarh because of the harassment by the police.
Finally the CBI took over the case after eight years in 1998 but did not file any charges against the persons who were harassing Ruchika and intimidating her, her friends and her family. The CBI also did not file a case against Rathore for abetment to suicide.
After 19 years and 40 adjournments the court pronounced Rathore guilty under Section 354 IPC (molestation) but only sentenced him to six months imprisonment and a insignificant fine of Rs 1,000. The court held that Rathore’s age and the delay in deciding the case justified the small sentence.
AIDWA states that Rathore’s age can not be a factor in mitigating the length of the punishment as he is not that old. It is ironic that though the delay was allegedly caused by the delaying tactics of the accused, he was given the benefit of this very delay. The court should have considered the fact that this was a case in which a minor had been molested and the molester was a supposed guardian of law. The court in fact should have awarded the sentence of two years which in any case, is the maximum sentence under Section 354 of the IPC.
AIDWA demands that the case be reopened and charges of abetment to suicide, criminal intimidation and filing false cases be leveled against the accused. It demands that all cases of rape and sexual assault should be decided in a time bound manner and no case should take more than one year in any event. The law should also provide for counseling and rehabilitation of the victims to lessen the trauma.
AIDWA further demands that the law relating to molestation and sexual assault be immediately amended and harsher and minimum punishments be provided under the law. The law should also differentiate between a major woman and a minor child. AIDWA has in the past demanded from the previous UPA government that molestation and other forms of sexual assault of minors should be treated as more serious types of sexual assaults and harsher punishments should be provided for these in the law.
It has also asked for extensive changes in the procedural laws relating to all these types of sexual assaults to make the law more sensitive to women and minors.
However these demands have been ignored by the government. It is relevant to mention that even the Law Commission has suggested extensive changes to the rape/sexual assault laws but no action has been taken on the 172 report of the Law Commission either.