Indian wrestlers say “first step towards victory” after Delhi Police tells SC FIR against WFI chief Brij Bhushan will be filed today

New Delhi: Kapil Sibal, the advocate for the wrestlers, told the court there are seven complainants and all of them must be given protection

BY | Friday, 28 April, 2023
Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The protesting wrestlers rejoiced “the first step towards victory” as Delhi Police decided to file an FIR against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh but they will continue their agitation and demanded that the BJP MP be removed from all the positions he holds.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police, told a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha that the FIR would be registered on Friday.

The wrestlers, who have accused WFI chief of sexual harassment and intimidation, have been demanding that an FIR be filed since they resumed their agitation on April 23.

“This is first step towards victory but our protest will continue,” Sakshi Malik told reporters at Jantar Mantar, where they put up huge banners, with one of those listing all the ongoing criminal proceedings against Brij Bhushan.

Vinesh Phogat said it took Delhi Police six days to file an FIR and they don’t trust the probe agency.

“It (Police) might file a loose FIR. We will see, observe then take a decision (on calling off protest). He should be behind the bars and removed from all the posts he holds, otherwise he will try to influence the investigation,” World Championship medallist Vinesh said.

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The Supreme Court bench has also directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to make an assessment of the threat perception to the grapplers and provide adequate security to one of them who is a minor. The girl is an alleged victim of sexual assault.

In its order, the apex court noted the solicitor general told the bench that since the allegations indicate commission of cognisable offence, the police have decided to register an FIR.

It noted senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the wrestlers, placed or record an affidavit in a sealed cover apprehending threat to the safety of the minor girl, an alleged victim of sexual assault.

“Bearing in mind the content which has been placed on record, we direct the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to make an assessment of the threat perception and provide adequate security to the minor girl involved,” the bench said.

It directed that an affidavit be filed before the apex court on or before May 5, the next date of hearing, about the steps taken for the security of the minor girl.

Sibal told the court there are seven complainants and all of them must be given protection.

The bench said its direction for providing security to the alleged minor victim shall not stand in the way of the Commissioner of Police to make independent assessment of the threat perception of the other complainants.

On April 26, the Delhi Police had told the top court that some kind of preliminary probe was needed before it can proceed with the registration of an FIR over accusations of sexual harassment.

The top court had on Tuesday issued notices to the Delhi Police and others on a plea by the seven women wrestlers, saying the matter is “serious” and requires consideration.

Several national award winning wrestlers have been protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding the government make public the findings of an oversight panel that investigated the sexual harassment allegations against Singh, also a BJP MP. The committee was set up by the sports ministry in January after the wrestlers held a three-day sit-in.

The panel headed by boxing great MC Mary Kom was asked it to submit its findings in one month. The tenure of the committee, to which wrestler Babita Phogat was added at the insistence of the protesting athletes, was later extended by two weeks.

The wrestlers have asserted they will not leave the protest site until Singh is arrested.

In their plea, the women wrestlers have alleged the Delhi Police had not registered an FIR despite repeated complaints.

“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.

“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,” the plea said.

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

“Pursuant to the same, the Ministry of Sports in wake of such allegations against the accused person, vide public notice dated January 23, 2023 decided to constitute a five-member oversight committee to investigate the allegations on the receipt of the complaints received on the behest of the petitioners.

“The oversight committee took note of the allegations, and the statements of the victims were recorded. However, it is distressing to know that despite the committee being formed, no concrete steps have been taken to address this critical issue,” the petition said.

The petitioners claimed they have learnt through media reports that Singh has been given a clean chit by the committee whose report is lying with the Ministry of Sports and, despite requests, has not been made public.

Top wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik had staged a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in January and accused the WFI boss of sexual exploitation and intimidation. The wrestlers had demanded that the WFI be disbanded and its president be removed.

Read more: WFI chief row: Delhi police asks for probe report from govt-appointed panel, says FIR will be filed once concrete evidence emerges

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