Court orders framing of charges against Brij Bhushan, wrestlers call it big win

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at his residence in New Delhi on June 14, 2023. Photo: IANS/Qamar Sibtain

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday ordered framing of sexual harassment and other charges against BJP MP and former Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in a case lodged by six female wrestlers, observing there was "sufficient evidence" against him.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Priyanka Rajpoot directed framing of charges against Singh, a six-time Lok Sabha MP, under IPC sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment) and 506 (criminal intimidation). "There is sufficient evidence to frame charges against the accused," the judge said.

Star grapplers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia on Friday welcomed the court's decision, calling it a big victory for country's women wrestlers.

"This is a big victory for the struggle of women wrestlers," Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang, one of the leading faces in the protest against Singh, wrote on 'X'. "The daughters of the country have had to go through such difficult times, but this decision will provide relief. Those who trolled women wrestlers should also be ashamed. Satyamev Jayate."

Rio Olympic bronze medallist Malik had retired after a faction led by Sanjay Singh, an aide of the former WFI President, was elected to head the federation in December last year.

"...We thank the honorable court. We had to sleep on the streets for many nights in the heat and rain, had to give up on our stable careers, only then have we been able to take a few steps forward in the fight for justice," Malik wrote on 'X'. "Heartfelt gratitude to those who showered love and blessings and may God bless those who trolled and said bad things. Long live Mother India."

India Wrestlers Protest
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat walks with her Arjuna and Khel Ratna Awards, India's highest national sports awards, before leaving them on a pavement near the prime minister's office as a mark of protest, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

The trioka of Sakshi, Bajrang and Vinesh Phogat were the prominent faces during the year-long protest which started in January 2023 at Jantar Mantar in the national capital.

The court, however, discharged Singh in a complaint filed by one of the six women wrestlers, citing lack of sufficient evidence in the complaint. The court will formally frame the charges on May 21. It also ordered framing of charges in the case against co-accused and former WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar.

Singh yet to decide on appeal
Reacting to the court decision, Singh said he will consult his lawyers and take a decision on whether to appeal against the order before a higher court or challenge it before the ACMM.

Skashi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sangita Phogat
Wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sangita Phogat at the protest site in New Delhi. Photo: IANS

"I welcome this decision of the judiciary. I had protested against the framing of charges but I did that within certain limits but now I have various options open to me. Either I appeal against the order or contest it. I will consult my lawyer and take a decision. I am not hurt, I was prepared for it. If the case continues, I will get an opportunity to present my side," Singh told PTI.

Singh, an influential Rajput leader from Uttar Pradesh, has been denied BJP ticket from Kaiserganj Lok Sabha seat in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him. The BJP has fielded his son Karan Bhushan Singh in Kaiserganj, his stronghold.

The Delhi Police had filed a charge sheet in the case against Singh on June 15 under sections 354, 354A, 354D (stalking) and 506 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).

Another Delhi court is likely to pronounce its order on May 20 on whether to accept a police report seeking cancellation of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a minor wrestler against Singh.

During the in-chamber proceedings held on August 1 last, the minor wrestler had told the court that she was satisfied with the Delhi Police's investigation in the case and was not opposed to the closure report it had submitted.

On June 15, 2023, the Delhi Police filed a report before the court seeking cancellation of the case involving the girl after her father made a startling claim midway through the probe that he levelled false allegations of sexual harassment against Singh to get back at him for perceived injustice to his daughter.

Police had recommended dropping the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act case against Singh, but charged him with sexual harassment and stalking in a separate case lodged on the basis of a complaint by six women wrestlers.

Police had recommended cancellation of the complaint involving the minor wrestler, saying "no corroborative evidence" was found.

The POCSO Act provides for a minimum imprisonment of three years, depending on the sections under which a crime has been registered. The closure report notwithstanding, the court has to take a call on whether to accept it or order further investigation.

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