The State takes over once an FIR has been registered, and the “volte-face” by the father of the minor wrestler claiming a false sexual harassment complaint was deliberately lodged against outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, will not be “decisive” and police can still proceed with its probe, legal experts said on Friday.
In a startling admission, the father of the wrestler Thursday said he deliberately filed a false police complaint of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Singh because he wanted to get back at the official for a perceived injustice to the girl.
Singh has been facing relentless protests for the past six months by some top Indian grapplers over the allegations.
The complaint by the minor wrestler has also led to an investigation under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Reacting to the development, senior lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi said the father’s statement is not “decisive” for the case, as once an FIR has been lodged, the State takes over the case and pursues it.
“The police is not bound to accept (the statement of the father) and it can still pursue the case because the statement (of the minor) is already there on record under Section 164 of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure),” he said. A statement recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 is admissible in court.
Another senior advocate and former SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) president Vikas Singh raised questions over the continued delay in the arrest of the WFI chief and filing of the charge sheet. He said an inquiry needs to be ordered to probe the delay as it has led to a situation where witnesses are being compromised.
“The delay in arrest (of the accused) and the delay in filing of the charge sheet in such cases invariably results in a situation where the witnesses are being compromised…There should be an inquiry as to why this happened,” Singh said.
He said had the accused been arrested nothing of this sort would have happened. “Usually, the complainants, after seeing no action, are driven, coerced and allured to settle cases,” he said, adding police can still pursue the case.
On being asked whether the WFI chief can move court over the statement of the girl’s father retracting the allegations of sexual harassment, Singh said he can seek prosecution for the offence of perjury.
Dwivedi said the “so-called U-turn” will be one of the aspects of the ongoing probe. “Whether this withdrawal (by father) is genuine or coerced and whether it amounts to perjury, these are the matters of investigation,” he added.
He said as the State has taken over the case on registration of the FIR, “The so-called U-turn will not be decisive. It will be just one element which the police will look into, and if it finds that the case is false, then it can take action against that person also.”
Right now the ball is in the court of police, and if it accepts and allows the withdrawal, then somebody will have to question it, Dwivedi said, adding either the minor or her next friend or somebody concerned may approach the court against the withdrawal.
“As of now, it is with the police which is not bound to accept it on the face value and will have to conduct an inquiry. It will become one element of inquiry and in the light of (section) 164 statements, the police can still go ahead,” he added.
Statements under section 164 of the CrPC are recorded before a judicial magistrate and have evidentiary value during trials and any U-turn may lead to prosecution of those who had testified.
On May 27, the Delhi police had informed a court here that statements of all alleged victims were recorded under Section 164 CrPC before a magistrate.
The Delhi police has filed two FIRs against Singh. While the first FIR relates to allegations by the minor wrestler and has been registered under the POCSO Act, the second is related to outraging the modesty of other grapplers.
The FIRs narrate several alleged instances of sexual harassment like inappropriate touching, groping, stalking and intimidation by Singh at different times and places over a decade.
Singh has been questioned by the police twice so far, and on both occasions, he denied all the allegations against him and claimed he was being “framed”.