Church leaders in India have welcomed a jail sentence imposed on a former top police official for molesting a girl, driving her to suicide.
“We welcome the verdict but justice has taken a long time,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India spokesperson, Father Babu Joseph, told UCA News on May 26.
A day earlier, a Chandigarh court sentenced Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore to 18 months in jail for the 1990 molestation of Ruchika Girhotra.
The girl committed suicide three years later at the age of 17, allegedly in the wake of continued harassment from Rathore.
A lower court had earlier sentenced Rathore to six months in jail and fined him 1,000 rupees (US$22). Nationwide protests and media scrutiny followed, leading to a reopening of the case.
The latest verdict “has given hope that justice can be obtained no matter how well connected the offender is,” Father Joseph said. It also has “a positive impact” as it sends a message that offenders must pay for their crimes.
Montfort Brother Mani Mekkunel, national secretary of the Conference of Religious India, welcomed the higher sentence. “It was already proved that he was guilty of the crime,” he told UCA News.
He also endorsed a new trend towards media campaigns seeking justice.
Girhotra was also expelled from the Sacred Heart Convent School.
However, the school, which is facing de-affiliation from the Catholic system over the expulsion, denied acting under pressure from Rathore.
“We welcome the judgment but deny all allegations that we did anything to Ruchika under pressure,” school manager Father Thomas Anchanikal told UCA News.