One out of six wrestlers had flagged the issue of 'breach of privacy' alleging that some close-aides of the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh were roaming around the conference hall when their statements were being recorded, ultimately making her uncomfortable and pressurised.
In an email dated February 13, addressed to all members of the Oversight Committee, the victim wrestler expressed her disappointment, saying, "We were called to the venue with the assurance of complete privacy and confidentiality. However, to our surprise, we found Brij Bhushan's favourites roaming around the conference hall throughout the day while our statements were being recorded, which made the environment completely uncomfortable and unauthentic."
The specific meeting mentioned by the wrestler took place on February 9. Earlier, on January 21, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had formed an 'Oversight Committee' to investigate allegations made by the six women wrestlers against Brij Bhushan and other coaches.
The victim wrestlers were repeatedly asked to appear before the six-member committee and record their statements. However, according to an email attached in the 1,599-page Delhi Police charge sheet, it was revealed that certain individuals associated with the accused made the victims feel uncomfortable.
The complainant wrestler pointed out in the email that there was an additional person present during the statement recording, who was not formally introduced or informed to them. This raised concerns as the law allows only six committee members to be present during such proceedings. The presence of a lawyer at the venue was not properly disclosed or informed to the wrestlers.
In response to the allegations, oversight committee member Radhica Sreeman through an email said that the WFI staff had been directed to provide full support to the Oversight Committee in its functioning, and therefore, administrative staff members of WFI were present as part of their duty.
Sreeman emphasised that the statements were recorded in confidentiality in a conference room inaccessible to the office bearers of WFI. In the case of alleged sexual harassment involving female wrestlers, it is important to highlight that the Delhi Court made certain observations.
The court noted that the Delhi Police did not express any concerns about the accused -- Brij Bhushan and suspended WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar -- abusing their positions or attempting to tamper with the evidence.
Surprisingly, the police did not even oppose granting bail to the accused.
However, the chargesheet shed light on the seriousness of the complaint regarding a 'privacy breach' raised by the victim wrestler, which has further complicated the stand taken by the police counsel during the hearing in the court.
Granted bail to Brij Bhushan
In a nine-page order, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Harjeet Singh Jaspal on Thursday granted regular bail to both Singh and Tomar. The Magistrate acknowledged that the allegations were serious and that seriousness is indeed a relevant factor when considering bail applications. However, it is not the sole determining factor.
Citing the Supreme Court's observations, the judge said that detaining undertrial prisoners indefinitely violates Article 21 of the Constitution. Therefore, the judge believed that at this stage, there was no purpose served in keeping the accused in custody.
The court also said, "The law of the land is equal for all, it can neither be pulled in the favour of the victims nor can it tilt in the favour of the accused persons..."
It was added: "The observations of the Delhi High Court in the court on its own motion vs CBI (Supra) are again reiterated to say that where the accused has not been arrested during investigation and he appears before the court upon summons, these circumstances are in itself sufficient for the accused to be released on bail."
Bail not opposed by police
"At no stage, the investigating agency, speaking through the Lead Additional Public Prosecutor, has expressed its apprehension that the accused persons are abusing their positions or are making attempts to tamper evidence. What has been conveyed is that sufficient conditions must be imposed to the extent that the accused persons do not, directly or indirectly, approach the victims so as to influence them. The Additional Public Prosecutor has not even opposed the bail, his simple submission is that it must be decided in accordance with directions of the Supreme Court in Satender Kumar Antil (Supra). Ld....." the order said.
In Brij Bhushan's case, the same court had earlier taken cognisance of the offences committed under Sections 354 (outraging modesty), 354A (sexually coloured remarks) and 354D (stalking), 506 (paragraph 1) (criminal intimidation) and 109 (abetment to offence) of the Indian Penal Code while asking him and Tomar to appear before it.
(With inputs from IANS)