The Supreme Court on Thursday (May 4) closed the proceedings on a petition by women wrestlers accusing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment, noting FIRs have been filed against him and seven complainants provided adequate security.
The wrestlers protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, however, have said that they will continue with their agitation and will decide on the future course of action after consulting with seniors.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala refused to entertain an oral plea by the counsel representing the wrestlers that the ongoing probe against Singh, a BJP MP, be monitored by a retired judge of the apex court or high court.
The top court, however, said that the wrestlers can approach the Delhi High Court or the jurisdictional magistrate for further relief.
“You came here with specific prayers for registration of FIR and security for the complainants. Now both your prayers have been addressed. If you have any further grievances, you can very well approach the high court or the jurisdictional magistrate,” the apex court told the petitioners.
Explaining its closure of the case, the court said the purpose of the plea was to get an FIR filed and the same has been fulfilled.
“Having due regard to the ambit of the proceeding which were instituted before this court and following the registration of FIR, we close the proceedings at this stage,” the bench said while hearing a plea filed by three women wrestlers who had sought registration of FIR in the matter.
Adequate security arrangements done: Delhi police
At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Delhi Police, told the bench that pursuant to the apex court’s April 28 order the threat perception of the seven grapplers was assessed.
He said adequate security arrangements have been made for the minor complainant as well as the six other women wrestlers.
Mehta said statements of five complainants, including the minor, have been recorded under section 161 of the CrPC.
Several decorated wrestlers have been protesting at Jantar Mantar, demanding that the government make public the findings of an oversight panel that investigated the sexual harassment charges against the WFI chief.
The Delhi Police has filed two FIRs against Singh. The wrestlers, who have received support from various opposition parties, are insisting on his arrest and asserted they will not leave the protest site until that is done.
During the hearing, Mehta referred to the apex courts April 28 direction about the safety and security of the complainants. He said the complainant who is a minor has been provided security and, despite the special cell of Delhi Police concluding there was no specific threat to the other six wrestlers, they were granted security cover.
“It was recommended that in view of this case and the ongoing demonstration, it will be reasonable to provide security for some time and accordingly, security has been provided to all six complainants by Delhi Police as per the following details…,” Mehta said.
Senior advocate Harish Salve sought to intervene on behalf of the WFI chief and said personal allegations have been levelled against Singh without even impleading him as a party.
The bench asked Mehta whether statements have been recorded under sections 161 (before police) and 164 (before magistrate) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Mehta said police are seeking time from the magistrate to record statement under section 164 of the CrPC.
“Have you moved the magistrate for recording the statement under section 164?” the bench asked.
The solicitor general said the process of recording statements under section 164 of the CrPC before the magistrate will be initiated shortly.
“For every stage, even for deciding the chronology of recording statements, if the complainants will come here, it would not serve the ends of justice. I don’t wish to say anything beyond that,” he said, adding, “We (police) are doing our best neutrally, completely impartially and independently.”
“There is something more than meets the eye. We are concerned with the complainants and the complaint filed by them. It has to be investigated independently. It is being done by a very senior lady IPS officer with a team of lady officers and it is done according to law,” he said.
The bench observed it is only concerned about whether the probe is being carried out.
Senior advocate Narender Hooda, appearing for the petitioners, referred to the sequence of events and said on April 28, FIRs were registered and on April 29, the police called the minor complainant and recorded her statement.
“So far as the accused is concerned, the accused has become a TV star. Every day he is giving interviews in every TV channel. Many of them are recorded, we have seen. He is taking names of the complainants, is saying they belong to so and so Akhada and there is some businessman behind all this,” Hooda said.
Replying to the allegations about Singh revealing identity of the complainants, Mehta said, “The complainants are (themselves) giving TV interviews, what identity he is talking about.”
No policeman was drunk: Solicitor General
The petitioners counsel referred to media reports about Wednesday’s scuffle between the wrestlers and some police personnel at Jantar Mantar.
“I have something to say on this… Two political leaders of a particular political party went with a truckful of folding beds which was prevented by the police and that resulted in a scuffle. The media reports say a policeman was drunk. Everybody was medically tested and nobody was found drunk. Policemen have also suffered injuries,” Mehta said.
In its order, the bench noted the petition before it has been instituted by three petitioners, all of whom have stated they have represented India in reputed international wrestling events, seeking direction for registration of FIR in relation to certain allegations of sexual harassment against the WFI president.
“The purpose of the petition before this court was to ensure the registration of FIR which has now been registered. Apart from the registration of FIR, this court had passed other directions for the purpose of ensuring security of the complainants,” it said.
SC dismisses plea seeking monitoring of case by retired judge
After the bench dictated the order, the petitioners counsel said keeping in view of the conduct of Delhi Police from April 1 till date, he would urge the court to have some monitoring either by a retired judge of the apex court or high court.
“…Because I am sure, without any confusion, that when these proceedings are disposed of, the Delhi Police will drag its feet as they have been doing even during the pendency of the petition,” he said.
The bench said it has already given liberty to the petitioners to either move the jurisdictional magistrate or the Delhi High Court.
“We have recorded that the petition was filed here for registration of an FIR. That purpose of the petition has been fulfilled,” it said and closed the proceedings.
Court did what it could do: wrestlers
Responding to the court’s closing of the case, Olympian Sakshi Malik, who has been at the forefront of the protests said, the court’s order was not a setback and it did what it could do in the matter.
“We have all options, will decide after consulting seniors,” wrestler Vinesh Phogat told the media.
(With inputs from agencies)