Friday, 1 January 2010

The Ruchika molestation case

The Ruchika suicide case signifies all that is wrong with the Indian system. And how it can be twisted by those in power, to harass simple law-abiding citizens.

SPS Rathore, a senior Haryana Police officer, used the system to play havoc with the lives of the Girhotra family, pressuring them to withdraw the charge of molestation the 14 year old Ruchika Girhotra had made against him. The result - the vivacious Ruchika, a promising tennis player, was forced to end her life, after her family was hounded for over three years following her complaint and her brother was tortured and false cases of auto theft slapped on him.

And what is the punishment that our judiciary system awards Rathore? Six months in jail and Rs 1000 as fine. That too after 19 years!

In fact, in this blog, all the reasons that led to Ruchika's sucide have been discussed in various posts.

First, a sullied police force - Haryana Police, one of the most corrupt in the country. Rathore as a senior police officer, molested the young girl after calling her to his office. It could have led to a rape, but for the arrival of her friend Aradhana, an eye witness to the case. After a complaint was filed against Rathore he went on to harass the family no end. Her friend, Aradhana, and her father have said that her school, Sacred Heart Convent, expelled her follwoing pressure from Rahore. The school has however denied bowing to any pressure. But the case still shows an education system that is most child unfriendly. The school should be like a child's second home. Ruchika had been molested. She did not have a mother. Her teachers should have stepped in, giving her the strength to cope with the trauma. But our education system does not put the child first, many of our top schools are money making rackets open to being exploited by the powerful. If all the teachers and the management of the school had decided that they would stand by the child, Ruchika could have been saved. Aradhana tells us that after the school expelled her, the once vivacious Ruchika went into a shell. The school failed her.

After Rathore had a string of auto theft cases slapped against Ruchika's brother, had him arrested and tortured, the family, which was well settled in Panchkula, was forced to shift to another city as the police, who is supposed to protect, had turned predators. One wonders why Ruchika's neighbours did not protest? Why couldn't they have demanded action against Rathore? And why the management of the Gymkhana club where Ruchika was molested by Rathore, did not throw Rathore out after the charge was made against him? The fact that two teenaged girls had penned a complaint against him, should have been reason enough. Young girls do not go around saying they have been molested, and the complaint should have been ground enough to remove Rathore from the helm of a gymkhana where young girls were coming to play. So the third failure was that of the civil society. Why don't we protest a wrong being done to our neighbour?

What do you call a police officer who tortures children? Is there a word for it? The departmental inquiry against him soon after the crime, which had found him guilty, was put into cold storage and ignored by the state's top politicians. Instead of seeing that the complaint was speedily looked into and the man punished, the political bosses promoted him. He went on to become the DGP of Haryana police. The political system failed the young girl.

It took the complainants nine years to lodge an FIR! And 19 years for the courts to pronounce Rathore guilty! And a sentence of six months of imprisonment and Rs 1000 as fine was awarded to the guilty man. An absolute failure of the judicial system. Our laws do not recognise that a child can be molested.

Thank God for the free press that we have. The only reason it is being given another look is because the television channels took it up, providing regular updates. The public was aghast. The pressure has built up. The case is being given another look. The critics call it trial by the media, but when institutions fail to deliver, it is the media that shows the society what has happened. Like a mirror, it shows the way things are.
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