Perspective | Oped


A Tribune Special
Violating the rule of law
The Ruchika case underlines the need to make institutions accountable, says N.H. Hingorani
he shocking Ruchika Girhotra’s case is yet another instance where outraged public sentiment has compelled our politicians to come out of their slumber and do damage control.


Incomes — high and low
A wake-up call for Yojana Bhawan
by K.S. Ramachandran
conomists do consider the concept of Gini Index and policymakers with a mandate to alleviate poverty recognise the need for narrowing income disparities.


Danger ahead
January 16, 2010
Delayed response
January 15, 2010
Verdict for transparency
January 14, 2010
Delhi-Dhaka bonhomie
January 13, 2010
Govt bats for growth
January 12, 2010
NRIs deserve better
January 11, 2010
The changing face of Indian media
January 10, 2010
Singled out
January 9, 2010
Message from Lal Chowk
January 8, 2010
Speak less, General
January 7, 2010

Hirani — the most sought after director
by Harihar Swarup
reator of blockbuster 3 Idiots, preceded by super-hits — Munna Bhai MBBS and Lage raho Munna Bhai — Rajkumar Hirani has been working on a new film — Munna Bhai Chale America. It is at scripting stage and he will decide the star-cast when the script is finalised.

On Record
Politics not my cup of tea: Hans Raj Hans
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal
ans Raj Hans is a popular Punjabi folksinger. Once a visiting professor of classical music at San Jose University in the US, he was closely associated with the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He also sang for the Hindi cinema.



A Tribune Special
Violating the rule of law
The Ruchika case underlines the need to make institutions accountable, says N.H. Hingorani

The shocking Ruchika Girhotra’s case is yet another instance where outraged public sentiment has compelled our politicians to come out of their slumber and do damage control.

The latest step is the registration of three fresh FIRs against Haryana’s disgraced Director-General of Police S.P.S. Rathore for offences under the Indian Penal Code, including the offence of implicating Ruchika’s brother, Ashu, in false cases so as to pressurise Ruchika into withdrawing her molestation complaint and the offence of abetting her suicide.

Rathore and his wife-cum-counsel Abha Rathore are attributing the filing of the fresh FIRs to a smear campaign by the media, pointing out that the Supreme Court has already settled both issues in their favour.

It is pointed out by the Rathores that while one Bench of the Supreme Court had quashed the directions given by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the District and Sessions Judge, Patiala, to probe the allegations made by Ashu, another Bench of the apex court had affirmed the view taken by the High Court that no case against Rathore can be made out for charging him for abetment to suicide.

The Rathores argue that the filing of the fresh FIRs as such is not permissible in law. But then, are the Rathores legally right in taking such stand?

Let us summarise the facts: “After a 19-year-long trial, Special CBI Magistrate J. S. Sidhu convicted Rathore on December 21, 2009 for molesting 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra under Section 354 IPC and sentenced him to six months rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1000.

The incident occurred in 1990. Ruchika (14) and her friend Aradhana (13), both budding tennis players, were summoned by Rathore to his office-cum-residence. Rathore was also the Chairman of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association (HLTS) at that time.

On August 12, 1990, Ruchika and Aradhana went to Rathore’s office. He directed Aradhana to go to call the coach. On her return, Aradhana saw Rathore molesting Ruchika. On seeing Aradhana, Rathore let go Ruchika from his embrace. Ruchika ran out of the room and Rathore told Aradhana to talk to her friend not to talk about the incident.

On August 14, 1990, Ruchika and Aradhana decided to tell about what had happened to their parents. Ruchika, who had lost her mother, confided in Aradhana’s mother.

On August 15, 1990, the families of Ruchika and Aradhana along with the parents of other trainees of the HLTA handed over a written complaint to Home Secretary J. S. Duggal. The then Chief Minister marked it to the then Director-General of Police R. R. Singh.

On August 25, 1990, 45-50 goondas raising slogans against Ruchika, smashed the window panes of her house. On September 3, 1990, DGP R. R. Singh found the allegation of molestation against Rathore in the complaint to be true and recommended registration of the complaint and investigation by the CID.

On the heels of the registration of the complaint against Rathore, the Sacred Heart School expelled Ruchika from school ostensibly for non-payment of school fee in time, though this was the first instance in the institution where a student was expelled on this ground. That too, when no such action was taken for 135 other students who had not paid their fees, some of whom had dues far more than Ruchika’s.

Ironically, Rathore’s daughter, who studied in the same school, was in this list of 135 students as well. The school principal, Sister Sebastina issued verbal instructions to expel Ruchika from the school without even notice to her parents. This undeserved blot on her school career lowered Ruchika’s self-esteem at the young impressionable age of 14 years and shattered her self-confidence.

Aradhana’s family was not spared either. Her father, Anand Prakash, was a Chief Engineer in the Haryana Agricultural Marketing Board had a spotless record. Soon after the complaint filed by Aradhana’s mother on behalf of Ruchika against Rathore for molesting her, 12 charge-sheets were filed against Anand Prakash.

The pressure tactics started on July 17, 1991, when a charge-sheet for major penalty was slapped on him with another on July 19, 1991 and the rest followed. Of the 11 charge-sheets filed against Anand Prakash, most were dropped and in others exonerated except the one in which he got a warning. Anand Prakash took premature retirement in 2000.

Soon after the state government’s decision in 1992 to register an FIR against Rathore, the police within his administrative jurisdiction filed first of 11 auto theft cases against Ashu (then 14 years old) on August 12, 1992. On October 23, 1993, Ashu was arrested and kept in illegal custody for two months and subjected to inhuman torture at Rathore’s instance.

On Diwali day, Ashu was brought out of Sector 6 Police Post, Panchkula (Chandigarh), hand-cuffed and paraded half-naked through the lane where he stayed. The police asked his father and sister to come out to see him in that state. Unable to see the sufferings of her family, Ruchika committed suicide on December 28, 1993.

It was several years later that Ashu was exonerated of all the charges in April 1997, with the court having “no hesitation to pinpoint that nothing is on record to prima facie indict the accused” and that charges against him are “just waste papers.”

With Ruchika committing suicide on December 28, 1993, Rathore swung into action by overseeing the post mortem, reducing her father to helplessly plead before the police to at least hand over her dead body. The post mortem report was tampered with to change Ruchika’s name and to attribute the cause of her death due to overdose of slimming pills.

A case was sought to be made out by Rathore that Ruchika committed suicide because she was depressed by her father’s relations with Veena, her nanny. Meanwhile, Rathore who is said to enjoy immense political influence, did not only stall any punitive action him under successive regimes but managed to have the departmental enquiry against him closed and to get promotions.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken suo motu notice on December 8, 2000 of a press report which had highlighted the harassment meted out to Ashu, Ruchika’s brother. The High Court had observed that “it seems the police officers posted at the Police Station, Panchkula, were let loose on Ashu by Rathore, a senior IPS officer of Haryana cadre to pressurise Ashu’s sister to withdraw the complaint lodged by her against him for the offence under Section 354 IPC”.

The High Court remitted the case to the District and Sessions Judge, Patiala, to probe Ashu’s allegation. On appeal to the Supreme Court by Rathore, the apex court stayed the High Court’s probe order.

In May 2005, the Supreme Court quashed the High Court probe order. Noting the harassment of Ashu referred to in the years 1993 to 1996, the period between Ruchika, molestation case and her suicide on December 28, 1993 in his affidavit, the Court wondered why Ashu filed his affidavit so late, while observing that Ashu was not illiterate and that no “other factor” was brought to its notice which compelled him to remain silent.

As regards the offence of the abetment to suicide, the Special CBI Judge, by his judgement dated October 23, 2007, had added the charge of abetment to suicide against Rathore under Section 306 IPC, taking into consideration the continuous alleged harassment of Ruchika as well as her family members.

Rathore’s revision application against the order dated October 2, 2001 in the Punjab and Haryana High Court was allowed in view of the CBI’s surprising stand supporting Rathore. The appeal preferred by Aradhana’s mother, Madhu Prakash, was dismissed by the Supreme Court.”

If we assume the aforesaid facts and judicial proceedings have been accurately reported by the media, we are left with numbing allegations of the sickening rot in our entire polity ranging from the police to the legal system to the bureaucrats to the politicians to the education system.

The effect of such misuse of power by all concerned has resulted in the flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of Ruchika, her brother as also of Aradhana’s father. After all, the Constitution mandates in Article 21 that “No person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except according to procedure established by law”.

The right to life in Article 21 includes the “inner graces of human civilisation”, the right to live with human dignity, the protection against cruel punishment or torture as also the right to speedy justice. These rights are guaranteed under our Constitution.

The enforcement of these rights is also a guaranteed fundamental right. The Constitution imposes a constitutional duty on the Supreme Court and the High Court to ensure that these rights are protected.

Thus, if Ashu alleges that his liberty was deprived without procedure established by law by the state (the police being an instrumentality of the state), and in the process Rathore and company committed criminal offences, the police is statutorily bound to register the FIR and investigate into the matter. It is immaterial that the complaint is being looked into now as there is no statute of limitation barring the proceedings in relation to violation of a citizen’s fundamental right.

Even with regard to commission of criminal offences, limitation is prescribed for only a few minor offences that are not relevant for purposes of this case. Further, it is well settled law that principles of estoppel and res judicata are not applicable to criminal proceedings so as to preclude a person to complain about his deprivation not being as per procedure established by law. The view taken by the Supreme Court in quashing the High Court’s probe order as aforesaid would, therefore, not assist the Rathores to block investigation into the allegations made by Ashu now.

Similarly, the view taken by the Supreme Court and the High Court on whether Rathore should be charged with the offence of abetment to commit suicide would not come in the way of the fresh FIR in the light of allegations which were unceremoniously buried earlier but now are being taken cognisance of by the investigating agency.

It is within the domain of the police to investigate into any allegation and submit its final report to the court upon completion of the investigation.

The courts have no power to interfere in the investigation. If the investigation discloses prima facie Rathore’s complicity, the court has no option but to frame the charge against Rathore. It is after trial that the court will adjudicate whether Rathore is guilty of the offence or not.

The plea of “double jeopardy” is also not available to Rathore as Article 20 of the Constitution merely states that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”.

Since the charge of abetment of suicide against Rathore was struck down by the High Court, Rathore has not even been prosecuted, let alone punished, for the offence of abetment to suicide.

It follows that the fresh FIRs now lodged against Rathore are permissible in law. However, if the system is to be cleansed, it is crucial to look beyond Rathore and consider how every person or institution that allowed or condoned this shameful state of affairs can be brought to book.

In the context of the Ruchika molestation case, the need for fixing accountability on our institutions has become far greater today than earlier because these institutions, at least ostensibly, swear by the rule of law.

The writer is Advocate, Supreme Court, New Delhi



Incomes — high and low
A wake-up call for Yojana Bhawan
by K.S. Ramachandran

Economists do consider the concept of Gini Index and policymakers with a mandate to alleviate poverty recognise the need for narrowing income disparities.

However, one has reason to be alarmed at the insensitivity to the income disparities in terms of access of diverse members of a household to the available disposable income, that is explicit in what is purported to be a Wharton Business School study on the so-called middle class in the emerging economies.

This writer has no quarrel with the definition of the middle class – as earners making between $10 and $20 a day, adjusted for local prices. But, he is one with the entirely gullible assumption that a family’s disposable income necessarily goes into welfare-oriented consumer goods and not squandered away in liquor or worse.

This writer has proposed to the Planning Commission a possible application of Gini Coefficient to the disposable income of poor households. Gini Coefficient is used to measure income disparities between nations, parts of a nation and between the rural and urban community. But, if we use it within a household, we will get startling results.

Household income/ expenditure surveys do not bring out a skewed distribution of the household’s disposable income between the male breadwinner and his dependents, possibly because investigators do not have the time to talk to any one other than the breadwinner and generally leave out perpetually suffering females.

Though this writer sent a group of students to find out how a poor household spent its income first in 2006 and again in 2008, in neither case could he call what was carried out a proper survey. The students did not go back to the same household to confirm what they had noted down on the first visit. But, both times, he stumbled on one fact that the Wharton Business School researchers would not have encountered – a quarter or more of the household’s disposable income going for liquor, gambling and tobacco.

This writer cannot, obviously, venture to generalise this to declare pompously that even with a per capita income of a dollar a day, a family can live with dignity, and with reasonable comfort, provided there was a disposable income and, even more so, that it was distributed in tune with the family’s welfare priorities – the critical needs of young mothers, children, food, shelter and literacy, in that order. It is possible that the December 2009 survey by the JK Business School covering 32 villages and nearly 4,000 households in Pataudi and Faruqnagar blocks of Gurgaon will give a wake up call to Yojana Bhawan.

In post-reform years concerning China, there was a debate among leading economists globally over the relevance of the Washington Consensus. What stood out was the prevalence of a household responsibility system in far-flung in China – a creation of long years of central planning and development – which facilitated a softening of the pain associated with the reform process.

Has this aspect of day-to-day life endured the deepening of reform in China? But, clearly, in poor homes, both rural and urban, in India, the male breadwinner has his priorities well set – liquor, tobacco and gambling for him; and what is left should go towards meeting the needs of the family, which often means very little.

The middle class may grow in size and dimension, courtesy the emerging segment, but whether inequity within a poor household will narrow is a question that demands an answer from several people concerned, policymakers, administrators and marketing strategists of FMCG industries.

A consumer market should not be assumed to be represented by irresponsible and selfish breadwinners but by households enjoying a fair share of the disposable income.

Researchers would do well to find out if the mobile phone or a motor bike purchased by the breadwinner is not paid for effectively by the way of denial of the very basic needs to those dependent on him for livelihood.

The middle class is always associated with family responsibility, parents making sacrifices for their children and the latter in turn caring for the former. But one is doubtful if the emerging middle class that comes out of the poor and very poor in emerging economies will operate on this fundamental basis.

The Planning Commission should find out how much of the income accruing to a household is channelised systematically and on a regular basis to all those who constitute the household, depending upon their actual needs and not as perceived by the breadwinner or the one who exercises maximal control over who gets how much.

Income and nutrition are constantly at loggerheads because what comes into a household as disposable income often disappears in liquor vends and gambling dens. Nutrition suffers when children and mothers are denied regular milk and healthy meals.

It is ridiculous for the World Bank and ADB to quarrel over norms of poverty. For, even with a per capita income $2 per day a family of five will have a monthly income of $300. Converted into rupees at an exchange rate of Rs 45 a dollar, the monthly household income of an above the poverty line household will be Rs 13,500. Depending on how this disposable income is used, the true extent of impoverishment gets established.

We need a higher level of household responsibility, a characteristic associated with China’s reform agenda vis-à-vis the Washington consensus. Whether we like it or not, a vital facet of Indian poverty has always been – and might well be in the future – a lack of household responsibility.

In China, while billionaires have emerged with the reform process, poverty and food insecurity have emerged. But a key characteristic of long years of centrally controlled and directed development – a sense of responsibility towards the family – has remained under reform. The Indian poor can hardly boast of this.

The writer is Professor and Head, Research & Publications, JK Business School, Gurgaon



Hirani — the most sought after director
by Harihar Swarup

Creator of blockbuster 3 Idiots, preceded by super-hits — Munna Bhai MBBS and Lage raho Munna Bhai — Rajkumar Hirani has been working on a new film — Munna Bhai Chale America. It is at scripting stage and he will decide the star-cast when the script is finalised.

With 3 Idiots, Hirani achieved what no Bollywood movie had done before. Starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, 3 Idiots has become the first movie in the history of Bollywood to gross in Rs 315 crore in 19 days since its release. In an official statement, Reliance BIG Entertainment Chairman Amit Khanna said 3 Idiots has opened new vistas for the Indian film industry.

Rajkumar Hirani has come up in life the hard way. There was time when he had to sell his camera to pay for his first rented accommodation and spending his time in an editing studio. Rajkumar was born in Nagpur in a Sindhi family. His father Suresh Hirani had a typing institute there. Hirani family had migrated to India after Partition and Suresh was, at that time, barely 14-year-old.

Rajkumar studied in St. Francis De’Sales High School, Nagpur. He did not get enough marks to get admission in engineering or medical courses and he had to do graduation in Commerce. At one time Rajkumar helped his father in his business but wanted to be actor in Hindi films, as he was associated with theatre in college days. His father got his photographs shots and packed him off to an acting school in Bombay.

Rajumar, however, could not blend in and returned to Nagpur after three days. His father then asked him to apply to Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India but the acting course had shut down by then and chances of admission to the directional course looked slim as there were too many applicants. So he opted for the editing course and earned a scholarship, thereby reducing the load on his father’s shoulder.

After doing three-year diploma course in cinema with specialisation in editing, RajKumar tried his luck as film editor for many years but bad experience forced him to shift to advertising. He gradually established himself as a director and producer of advertising films. He was seen in a Fevicol ad where some guys and elephants are trying to pull and break a fevicol plank, yelling Jor laga ke Haisha.

He was doing good advertising business but wanted to make movies. So he took a break from advertising and started working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. He got a big break as film editor with Mission Kashmir. His directional debut in 2003, Munnabhai MBBS, earned him the reputation of a lucid storyteller and Lage raho Mummabhai in 2006 cemented it further. 3 Idiots has surpassed all expectations, perhaps, his own as well. He is now one of the most sought after directors in Bollywood.

3 Idiots was inspired by Chetan Bhagat’s novel — Five Point Someone, but Rajkumar says it is not a copy of the novel. “I think print and cinema are two different mediums and they cannot be compared. The canvas of both the mediums is totally different but yes the characters are driven from the book, that’s it”. One has to see the film, to feel the difference”.

Rajkumar cherishes some memorable moments while shooting 3 Idiots. He had great time shooting at the IIM campus, where his actors turned students, blended with IIM students as if they are one of them and also played badminton with them. The other one was in Ladakh where Rajkumar and the team of his actors had tough time shooting. It was snowing and shooting became very difficult. They had to wait for one year so that the weather becomes suitable for the cameras to roll. “We enjoyed shooting there”, he says.



On Record
Politics not my cup of tea: Hans Raj Hans
by Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Hans Raj Hans
Hans Raj Hans

Hans Raj Hans is a popular Punjabi folksinger. Once a visiting professor of classical music at San Jose University in the US, he was closely associated with the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He also sang for the Hindi cinema.

He belongs to a different Punjabi folk culture tradition known as sufism.

For a while, he dabbled in politics. It was a "forced" entry but ultimately it was an enriching experience, though not pleasant. Born in a poor family, Hans is a self-made person.

Though he is rich and famous today, humility continues to be his trait. He speaks to The Tribune at his palatial residence in Jalandhar about his career.


Q: What made you join politics?

A: I was not keen to join politics. I was happy in my own world. However, Sardar Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal had been cajoling me for long to join politics. Whenever I met Badal Senior, he would ask me to think about joining politics. I used to politely say no.

However, some months before the last Lok Sabha elections, Sukhbir came to my residence. Next day I was declared a candidate for the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat. I have great regard for Badal Senior. Badal Sahib ne hukam kita te main man liya (This time Badal Sahib ordered me to contest and I obeyed that).

Q: What is your experience in politics?

A: It was good and bad. I went from village to village, met thousands of people and came to know about their problems in the countryside. I visited about 1200 villages during the elections whereas earlier my world was limited to my own and a few other villages. I learnt a lot about human behaviour and psyche especially during elections. This was nice.

The bad experience was the electioneering and elections as a system. It is so rotten from inside that a sensitive person gets disturbed to see all this.

Q: What about continuing in politics?

A: Politics is not my cup of tea. I am too soft to be in this arena. To survive and succeed in politics, one needs to be very shrewd, fast and a calculating character. I lacked all this; you may call it qualities or some thing else. Politics is a such a complex trade that to learn its tricks is not everybody’s job especially for people like me who are engaged in creative and performing arts such as singing. To be humble and down to earth is a disqualification in politics.

Q: Are you hurt that Jalandhar city did not support you wholeheartedly in the elections?

A: I feel that my ishk (love affair) with this city has been one-sided. In a one-sided love, one has to face a situation that is called rejection. But I do not feel jilted. I got an overwhelming response in the rural areas but lost in the city. I had dreamt to serve this city without any vested interest and do a lot of charity work. But my love was one-way traffic and there was no response from the city. However, my ishk with this city will continue.

Q: After the Lok Sabha elections, you were not seen in political meetings. Have you returned to your first love — folk music?

A: I am back to my original field. I am working on some of the cassettes and have also some assignments in the film industry. A cassette in which I have composed music is likely to be released soon. My cassette of Shabads was released recently.

I am also associated with a religious place at Nakodar. I am trying to break some myths spread about Sufism and have stopped the use of all kinds of intoxicants at the religious place related to a Muslim Sufi saint. Sufism has nothing to do with intoxicants.

Q: What about music today?

A: Much of it is disappointing and disturbing. Clearly, today’s music is too loud to be described as such. Music’s relationship is with the soul and not with shore (noise).

Most of what we here today is noise and to describe it as music will be erroneous. Today’s music by and large gives a headache whereas it is meant to give peace to the soul.

Unfortunately, some performers have crossed all limits of civility and ethics. Some singers pay from their pockets to get the audio-video cassette recorded and then for publicity on some TV channels. Instead of being performing art, singing is being reduced to a commercial activity.



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