How Many Rathores Get Away?

Posted: May 25, 2010

Former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore has finally had his sentence extended from a measly 6 months to well, a very-slightly-less-measly 1.5 years. No doubt, there is some justice here for the family of Ruchika Girhotra, a young girl who was driven to commit suicide due to the harassment suffered not just by her, but by her family.

Yet, most of us know that while one Rathore has been sentenced, there are scores of others who get away with impunity – they are never charged or the victim’s family is encouraged to ‘compromise’ or simply browbeaten into dropping the case, especially if the accused is an influential man.
While the Indian judiciary has to be commended for its many forward-looking judgements in such cases, the fact remains that the law in India moves at an intolerable pace. The impact of this is naturally much higher on the poorest and weakest sections of society as well as on women.
Those from low-income groups simply cannot afford the expense needed to come to court a hundred times, nor the time needed off from work. Those from so-called lower castes are often forced to drop cases, for fear of violence or social ostracism. And women? Women are encouraged to ‘adjust’ and make peace, either to ‘protect their honour’ or that of the perpetrator.
I read this account a long time ago, where a woman who was harassed on a train journey and went on to file an FIR realized what an ordeal it was just to get to filing an FIR in an Indian police station. And this was an educated woman, aware of her rights, a journalist with a reputed publication and therefore a person with some leverage. What happens to those with no such leverage is well-known – their cases don’t even get started.
So, unless the government is serious about police reforms and the judiciary really gets their act together and start moving much, much faster, sentencing one such man is of no use; it may give some courage to other such victims, but we need to do much more to ensure that no other young woman feels the need to end her life.
(This case also shows why we need separate child abuse laws; let’s not forget – Ruchika was 14 when she was molested. In all civilized societies, there is much heavier punishment for abusing children, who are among the most vulnerable classes in society).

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