Trial court ‘erred’ in giving Rathore six months: judge

Chandigarh, May 26 (Calcutta Tube) The judge who enhanced the sentence of disgraced former Haryana police chief S.P.S. Rathore to 18 months has said the six-month imprisonment given by the trial court in December last year was an ‘error’.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Gurbir Singh, who Tuesday showed no concession to Rathore by allowing him probation or bail after sentencing him in the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case because it would be a ‘mockery of the justice delivery system’, said that the trial court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court here, had erred in giving just six months rigorous imprisonment (RI) to Rathore.

‘In a case in which the convict deserved maximum sentence, the trial court erred by awarding rigorous imprisonment of six months to the convict. The court was required to minutely consider the conduct of the convict after the occurrence and during the trial of the case,’ the judge said in his lengthy 103-page order.

Rathore was taken into custody after the verdict.

The court verdict came after Rathore, a former director general of police (DGP) in Haryana, filed a plea in January this year challenging his conviction in December last year by a CBI special court here for molesting 15-year-old Ruchika Aug 12, 1990. She had committed suicide three years later.

The CBI opposed his appeal, seeking an enhanced sentence for Rathore.

It took just three minutes for the judge to pronounce the judgment in a jam-packed court room where Rathore was seen wiping the sweat on his face several times before the verdict came and his lawyer wife and counsel closed her eyes for a couple of minutes, perhaps in prayer, before the judge arrived.

Judge Singh, who gave only 18 months RI to Rathore instead of the maximum up to two years under the law in a molestation case, justified it saying: ‘Although the convict deserves maximum punishment that is prescribed for the offence under Section 354 of the IPC but keeping in view the age of the convict, his medical background, his dependent unmarried daughter who suffers from a congenital heart problem, his meritorious service record and the fact that the convict spent more than 200 dates in the court during the trial of the case, the purpose of law would be met if the convict is awarded sentence of rigorous imprisonment for one-and-a-half years.’

The judge, in the order, denied that the media coverage of the Ruchika molestation case had influenced the court.

‘Courts are only bound by law and its own judicial conscience…Nobody should apprehend that media trial can influence the decision of the courts.’

The judge noted that the nearly 20-year legal battle in the case was between two unequals.

The court pointed out that the lengthy cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses by Rathore’s lawyers was unnecessary and that it ‘proves that (it was) they (who) were put on trial’.

The cross-examination of the main witnesses was conducted in over 400 pages, consuming several years.

Rathore’s conduct during nearly two decades of the molestation case made the court observe: ‘The convict has no remorse for the wrong committed by him. Every witness of this case had to face allegations in one form or the other and an attempt was made to catch them in a well-woven legal web.’

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