SC Issues Notice to Delhi Police on Plea by 7 Women Wrestlers for FIR Against WFI Chief over Sexual Harassment Allegations, Matter “Serious”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Delhi Police and others on a plea by seven women wrestlers seeking registration of an FIR against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment, saying the matter is “serious” and requires its consideration.

As more political leaders including former Haryana chief minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda and functionaries of some ‘khap’ panchayats and farmers’ organisations rallied behind the country’s top wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar here, the petition contended that despite filing complaints the Delhi Police has failed to register the FIR.

The wrestlers asserted that they won’t leave the protest site until Brij Bhushan, who is also a BJP MP, is arrested. They had resumed their sit-in protest on Sunday and demanded that the findings of the oversight panel that investigated the allegations be made public. The oversight committee was set up by the Sports ministry in January after the wrestlers held a three-day sit-in at Jantar Mantar.

“In spite of the lapse of three days i.e, from April 21, 2023 to April 24, 2023, no conclusive action has been taken by the Delhi Police. This clearly depicts a sad state of affairs and a clear violation of human rights,” the petition by the seven women wrestlers said.

The wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia alleged that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president is now resorting to strong arm tactics by issuing threats and offering bribes to the “victims”.

“If just an FIR is lodged, we will not go from here. He has to be put behind bars. If he remains outside, we won’t be safe. How will we train, if he is roaming free,” Vinesh said.

A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha was initially of the view that the plea may be listed for hearing on Friday.

However, after hearing some arguments from senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who mentioned the matter, it decided to take up the case straightaway.

The top court said normally a remedy to approach police is available under Section 156 (police officers’ power to investigate cognisable cases) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“What are the charges?” it asked.

Sibal said the seven wrestlers, including a minor, have levelled sexual harassment allegations against Brij Bhushan but no FIR has been lodged so far despite the law being very clear on this aspect.

“These are women wrestlers…There are seven which include a minor. There is a committee report which has not been made public. And no FIR is registered,” he added.

Referring to judgements, the senior lawyer said even a police personnel can be prosecuted for not registering an FIR in an offence of this nature.

Taking note of the submissions, the bench said, “There are serious allegations made in the petition by wrestlers who have represented India and sexual harassment meted out to them. The matter requires consideration by this court.”

“(The plea) Taken on board. The identity of the petitioners shall be redacted. Only the redacted petition shall be made available in the public domain. Issue notice. Returnable on Friday. Liberty to serve the NCT Delhi. The complaints which form a part of an attachment in sealed cover shall again be re-sealed and shall be paced again together with the … plea,” the bench ordered. The Delhi Police was among other parties who were issued the notice.

The petition said it is the responsibility of the police to ensure the safety of all citizens, especially of those who are most vulnerable.

The wrestlers stated that after being “sexually, emotionally, mentally, and physically” exploited allegedly by Brij Bhushan and his close aides on numerous occasions, they have mustered the courage to raise their voices against such acts and sat on protest at Jantar Mantar seeking appropriate action against the perpetrators.

“The Police at the said police station took the complaints and did not even issue a formal receipt of the complaint for about three hours. The Police officials were seen taking pictures of the complaints on their mobiles and sending the same here and there. The attitude of the police was shockingly rude towards the complainants,” the plea claimed.

Hooda, another Congress leader Udit Raj and CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat were welcomed by the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, a day after they had sought support from all quarters. Karat was stopped from joining the stir by the wrestlers in January.

Hooda spent about 35 minutes with the wrestlers.

While Hooda did not speak, Raj asked the protesting wrestlers to stick to their cause, like the farmers did against the contentious farm laws and said, “You will emerge victorious”.

A Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) representative also joined the stir.

A few children from Madhya Pradesh offered their piggy bank, containing their savings, to the wrestlers.

Bajrang Punia, while thanking them, said, “You have big hearts” and returned the ‘gullak’.

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