Ruchika Girhotra Case: S.P.S. Rathore’s conviction upheld; sentence mitigated due to old age

Supreme Court: In the Ruchika Girhotra case, the Court reduce the sentence of S.P.S. Rathore to the period already undergone by him as a special case considering his very advanced age. The Court upheld the findings as to the guilt of the appellant-accused, however, it was held that the cause of justice would be best sub-served when the sentence of the appellant-accused would be altered to the period already undergone. The counsel for the appellant had pointed out the mitigating factors i.e. old age of the appellant-accused, health ailments, responsibility of looking after the unmarried daughter suffering from congenital heart disease, past meritorious service and prolonged trial.

The appellant, IG of Police and also the founder of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTA) was accused of molesting 15-year old Ruchika, the deceased who later committed suicide by consuming poison. The deceased had got herself enrolled as members of HLTA and the accused molested her in his office. Aradhana, the deceased’s friend was an eye witness. Relying upon her testimony, the Court said that she, being the sole witness to prove the actus reus, her evidence should receive some careful consideration and there is no reason for her to depose falsely against the appellant. The occurrence of the overt act is well proved by the unimpeachable testimony of the eye-witness.

Regarding the non-examination of two important site witnesses i.e. the ball picker and the Coach, the Court said that evidence is weighed and not counted. Evidence of even a single eye witness, truthful, consistent and inspiring confidence is sufficient for maintaining conviction. It is not necessary that all those persons who were present at the spot must be examined by the prosecution in order to prove the guilt of the accused. Having examined all the witnesses, even if other persons present nearby not examined, the evidence of eye-witness cannot be discarded.

With regard to the delay of about 6 days in presenting the complaint to the SHO, the Court said that in a tradition-bound non-permissive society in India, it would be extremely reluctant to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect upon chastity of a woman had occurred, being conscious of the danger of being ostracized by the society or being looked down by the society. The decision of the victim of not informing about the incident to the parents under the circumstances that the appellant was a very senior police officer of the State, was reasonable and it would not have been an easy decision for her to speak out.

The bench of V. Gopala Gowda and R.K. Agrawal, JJ said that the High Court, on proper re-appreciation of the entire evidence, came to the right conclusion that the prosecution was successful in proving the case beyond reasonable doubt and the offence punishable under Section 354 of the IPC was made out. There is devastating increase in cases relating to crime against women in the world and our country is also no exception to it. Although the statutory provisions provide strict penal action against such offenders, it is for the courts to ultimately decide whether such incident has occurred or not. The courts should be more cautious in appreciating the evidence and the accused should not be left scot-free merely on flimsy grounds. [S.P.S. Rathore v. C.B.I., 2016 SCC Online SC 985, decided on 23.09.2016]

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