The Supreme Court on Tuesday called the sexual harassment allegations against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh “serious” and issued notice to the Delhi Police in the matter.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, said: “There are serious allegation in plea on behest of international wrestlers with regards to sexual harassment meted out to them. Issue notice returnable on Friday. Liberty to serve standing counsel NCT Delhi. The complaints which form an attachment in sealed cover and shall be again resealed.”
The plea was mentioned before the bench by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Narendra Hooda, representing the wrestlers.
Sibal submitted that this is the wrestlers’ matter and they are sitting in dharna, and seven women have complained and one is a minor. He said the wrestlers have been sitting on a protest, but “the police are not acting… look at the allegations. …Even police personnel can be prosecuted for not registering an FIR”.
Citing that matter involved sexual harassment, Sibal stressed that police were bound to register a case. The top court directed redaction of the identities of the petitioners from their petition and said that the redacted copy of the plea should be made available in the public domain.
The plea — filed by three women wrestlers, and four complainants supporting the petition — said they attempted several times to convince Delhi Police to register an FIR, but they failed.
The plea said women athletes who make the nation proud are facing sexual harassment, and instead of getting the support they deserve, they are being forced to run from pillar to post to get justice. It said the accused person in this case is an influential person and is misusing the process of law to evade justice and further manipulating the legal system and obstructing justice.
The plea said that “it is crucial that the police take all complaints of sexual harassment seriously and register FIRs promptly and not create yet another obstacle by delaying the registration of FIR”.
“Failure to do so not only undermine the credibility of the police department but also emboldens perpetrators of sexual harassment, making it more difficult for women to come forward and report such incidents.” The plea contended that despite filing complaints which ex-facie disclose the commission of a cognizable offence, the Delhi Police in complete disregard of the law laid down by the constitutional bench of the apex court has failed to register FIRs against the persons accused therein.
“Inspite of the lapse of three days i.e., from April 21-24, 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. It is the responsibility of the police to ensure the safety of all citizens especially of those who are most vulnerable, however, having miserably failed to discharge their duties, the very institution that is meant to safeguard them,” said the plea.
Won’t end protest unless Brij Bhushan is put behind bars: Protesting wrestlers
With several politicians and farmer organisations in their corner, India’s top wrestlers on Tuesday intensified their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and asserted that they won’t leave the protest site until the WFI president, who is facing sexual harassment charges, is arrested.
The wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, alleged that the WFI chief is now resorting to strong arm tactics and trying to break the “victims” by issuing threats and offering bribes.
Vinesh claimed that the Delhi police has leaked names of the victims to Brij Bhushan, who is using Haryana Wrestling Association secretary general Rakesh and coach Mahavir Prasad Bishnoi to threaten the families of the women wrestlers, who have filed complaints against the WFI chief.
“Brij Bhushan now knows the names of the complainants. The Delhi police has leaked the names to him. They are issuing threats. They are trying to break the victims and that’s why the delay in lodging an FIR,” Vinesh told reporters.
“We thought the sports ministry will give us justice but it did not happen. But we have faith in judiciary. If the Supreme Court takes everything related to this case under its wings and we are sure that no game will be played, only then we will leave the protest site.
“If just an FIR is lodged, we will not go from here. He has to be put behind the bars. If he remains outside, we won’t be safe. How will we train, if he is roaming free,” Vinesh said.
Would they be content if the police file an FIR and begins investigation?
Vinesh said, “There are hundreds and thousands of FIRs against many people. But it is a question of justice. Only when are sure that we will not be tricked, we will end protest, otherwise we are here.”
Coach Mahabir Prasad denied the allegations.
“I don’t know who the victims are. I am being dragged into this because I had refused to be on the side of the wrestlers,” Mahabir Prasad told PTI.
“They wanted me to be with them in the protest but I told them that while they are dear to me and I can help with the coaching part even if they call me in the wee hours, but I won’t stand on one side because the federation has also helped me in my career.
“I chose to be neutral and the wrestlers did not like it, so they are accusing me.”
Several politicians, including former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and ‘khap’ leaders on Tuesday met with the protesting wrestlers and extended their support to them.
Hooda, Udit Raj, another Congress leader, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, who was stopped from joining the stir by the wrestlers in January, were welcomed by the wrestlers, a day after they had sought support from all quarters.
The Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) representative also joined the wrestlers’ stir.