The former Haryana police chief, S.P.S. Rathore, was stabbed by a 24-year-old student, outside the district court complex in Chandigarh, on Monday.

The attacker has been identified as Utsav Sharma from Varanasi and is pursuing post-graduate studies in animation and film design at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.

Utsav stepped out of the media crowd and stabbed Rathore with a pocket knife in the neck and face before he was immediately overpowered by a policeman and taken to a nearby police station.

Senior Superintendent of Police S.S. Srivastava said the young man ‘seemed to be mentally unstable.’ He was living in the city for just about a month. “It seems he was attacking Rathore to cause greater harm. He seems to have committed the stabbing in a fit of anger and under some psychological imbalance,” Mr. Srivastava said.

Rathore pulled out his handkerchief and put it on his bleeding cheek as he tried to regain composure. He was immediately taken to the nearest hospital and he returned to the court in blood-stained clothes after the lunch break, and the in-camera proceedings resumed.

Posing as a freelance journalist researching the case, Utsav mingled with reporters waiting for Rathore to cover the first day of the three-day hearing against his conviction which started Monday. The attack seemed pre-meditated as the court exit is in front of the police station, leaving no route for escape.

Aradhana, a childhood friend of the girl who was molested by Rathore and who fought for her for over 19 years, condemned the attack. “I have faith in the judiciary and so should everyone else. This act is probably the rage that the public is feeling but acts of violence have no place in a civil society.”

Incidentally, defence counsel for the accused, Abha Rathore had pleaded in court that the in-camera appeal hearings be conducted with the presence of only the investigating CBI, prosecution and defence counsel, as her husband had been the target of a malicious media campaign and was in danger of physical and mental harm from some elements.

The court is hearing two matters, one related to the appeal filed by Rathore against his conviction for molestation by a CBI special court and the second seeking enhancement of his sentence from six months to two years of rigorous imprisonment by the CBI.

A CBI special court held Rathore guilty on December 21, 2009 for molesting a 15-year-old girl, a budding tennis player, in Panchkula town on August 12, 1990. He was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs. 1,000 in the 19-year-old case. Rathore was granted bail immediately after his conviction.

In its appeal before the court, the CBI had strongly opposed the excuse of old age given by Rathore’s counsel and demanded a sentence of up to two years. In the enhancement appeal, the CBI said Rathore did not act on the spur of the moment and his action was “pre-planned.”