GUILTY but FREE – The Ruchika Girhotra Case

“It’s men who trust they will suffer no consequences for their actions, while women suffer no matter what they do.”

Meghan MacLean Weir

The Ruchika Girhotra Case is one to instill fear and hatred towards humanity and the toxic patriarchal mannerism infused into our upbringing and way of living. This case convinces my feministic conditioning that this is indeed a man’s world, and women don’t have a voice. Women might scream, buts it’s never heard.

A quick Google search will tell you that, Law enforcement is an umbrella term for the activities of some members of government who act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating, or punishing people who violate the rules and norms governing that society. Why is it the opposite in most cases? Why are our protectors becoming our predators?

Custodial Rape and Assault is more common than we think. This year, amidst a global pandemic, a father-son duo, from Thoothukudi (formerly known as Tuticorin) were raped, assaulted, and tortured to death in custody for having their store open past curfew.

The three rape cases that brought about the Anti-Rape Movement in India were all custodial rape cases. 1972: Mathura, a 15-year-old from Maharashtra. 1978: Rameeza Bee, a working-class woman from Hyderabad. 1980: Maya Tyagi, a middle-class woman from Haryana. All three women were raped in police custody.

In a 2017 report, Uttar Pradesh has been labeled the state with the highest custodial rape cases.

In Ruchika’s instance, one set of officials didn’t hold back on the nightmarish counts of torture, while the other hardly reprimanded.

Ruchika was a 14-year-old, Tennis player with a bright future, however, thanks to the mighty patriarchal world, all she is remembered as now is the molested teen who succumbed to the threats and killed herself. Her suicide is not her story. Her story started a little while before but went for a lot longer after. Her story wasn’t hers, it still isn’t. Her story, this story is of Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore. He stole her childhood, innocence, family, happiness, and finally her will to live and fight.
This is a monster’s story in a monster’s world.

This story began in 1990 when the then IGP (Inspector General of Police) S.P.S Rathore molested Ruchika in his office until her friend Aradhana Prakash intervened. With the help of the then Home Secretary J K Duggal and then DGP Ram Rakhpal Singh, on 3rd September 1990, Rathore was indicted. Despite the orders, Rathore was neither arrested nor fired.

It was the year 1992, and the state government issued a charge sheet against Rathore instead of filing an FIR. Unfortunately, the state government does not hold the power to issue a charge sheet or act on it, so no action was taken.

All while the then ex-MLA Jagjeet Singh Tikka hired a large group of men to harass Ruchika and her family. Ruchika was also expelled from her school Sacred Heart School for Girls under the pretense of non-fee payment.
Multiple false cases were filed against Ruchika’s father, her 10-year old brother Ashu, Aradhana (Ruchika’s friend), and Aradhana’s parents, Anand Prakash and Madhu Prakash. Mr. Pankaj Bharadwaj, the lawyer who initially took up Ruchika’s case too was charged with a defamation case and case for compensation. The journalists who reported on this case were charged too.

Rathore was still free, and was the head of the Haryana State Electricity Board in 1993 and took help from the CIA to illegally confine Ruchika’s brother. The then 13-year old Ashu was mercilessly assaulted by police officials, who are appointed for the safety of citizens. Ashu was again illegally confined 3 months later, on 11th November. Ruchika, on 28th December that year, committed suicide. Rathore celebrated by hosting a party for all those who supported him in this destruction that night. An unconscious Ashu was released only after he and his father were made to sign on blank papers, which was later used as confessions, for crimes they didn’t commit.

Less than a week after Ruchika’s death, the Chandigarh Government closed the case filed against Rathore and Soon after he was promoted to be the DGP (Director General of Police). Ruchika’s family moved out of Chandigarh unable to bear the intimidation anymore.

Anand Prakash, (father of Aradhana Prakash) hadn’t given up. He was fired from his job and his family was constantly under threat. He chased every lead and opening and finally in 1998 filed a petition, and a CBI inquiry was ordered. Only on 16th November 2000, CBI filed a charge sheet against Rathore. With the political influence, the charge sheet did not harm Rathore who continued as a police chief.

Judge Jagdev Singh Dhanjal who in 2001, supported Ruchika’s family and the Prakash family in adding Section 306 (Abetment to Suicide), was forced to take premature retirement in 2003.
In 2002, Justice K.C. Kathuria, of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, dismissed the CBI’s charge sheet and ordered to cancel the FIR (which was never filed in the first place). Rathore was free.

More petitions and cases were filed against Rathore by the Prakash family.

On 5th November 2009, the case was transferred from the Ambala Court to the CBI Chandigarh Court. December 21st, the court gave its final verdict and pronounced a six-month jail sentence and a fine of Rs.1000.00 for Rathore. Within minutes after the sentencing, he was granted bail and was free as always.

After 19 years, since the molestation, Rathore was held accountable but only for 6 months! This didn’t sit well with a lot of people. This case was brought up in multiple debates in the Parliament, by CPI (Communist Party of India) leader Brinda Karat.
In the following 7 years, Rathod’s 6-month sentence turned into an 18-month sentence.

In 2016, the Supreme Court carried out its verdict and found S.P.S. Rathore guilty. However, reduced the sentence back to 6-months and claimed it had already been endured. This verdict was given keeping in mind Rathore’s old age.

Anand Prakash (74), died suffering from Prostate Cancer in 2018. He was robbed of the justice he deserved. Ruchika was robbed of the justice she deserved. Ashu, Aradhana, and Madhu were denied the justice they deserve.

Why was Rathore’s age taken into consideration, when Ruchika’s wasn’t?
Ruchika was 14-years-old.

26 years, molestation, a suicide, multiple false cases, a teenage boy’s torture, families losing peace, fathers losing jobs, mothers being restless, and all it’s come to is no punishment?

26 years, over 40 adjournments, more than 400 hearings, and Rathore is still free with an unsupported guilty tag.

26 years of torture, and no punishment. What justice did the Sessional, High, and Supreme Court of India serve?

26 years and none of the other police officers, politicians, goons, CIA nor judges were held responsible. None of them were charged or fired. Anand Prakash was fired. Judge Jagdev Singh Dhanjal was fired. Everyone who stood with the right paid a price, while the rest got away scot-free.

As I said earlier, this is a man’s world. Only the most powerful man wins, not the best. This should have been Ruchika’s story, but all it ended up being was a Powerful Egoistic Man’s journey of climbing the success ladder and dodging every bullet that justice throws. A man, Rathore molests and only another man, Anand was able to bring justice. Only the powerful win, so Rathore won this game.