Supreme Court accepts wrestlers' case, hearing on Friday

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, on Monday, April 24, 2023. PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition filed by wrestlers seeking registration of an FIR against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers.

A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that the allegations raised by the wrestlers were serious and required the court's consideration. It directed that the case be listed on Friday, after notice was sent to relevant authorities.

The case was mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who said that no FIR has been lodged despite the sexual harassment allegations. He also said that the victims - whose names have been redacted from the judicial records - include a minor.

The wrestlers -- led by Olympic medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, and Worlds medalist Vinesh Phogat - on Sunday resumed the protest they had started in January. They said they had raised a complaint at Connaught Place police station (in New Delhi) against WFI president Singh late last week but the police had refused to file an FIR.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday, Sakshi said, "We made a complaint at CP Police Station. It has been two days, but no FIR has been registered yet. Seven women complained, which also includes a minor. It makes for a POCSO case, but nothing has been done yet."

Earlier that day, Vinesh had tweeted: "Various female wrestlers who have brought laurels to this country have been sexually exploited and harassed by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, President, WFI. The Delhi Police is not registering the FIR despite complaints on 21.04.2023."

This development came three months after they first sat down in protest at Jantar Mantar (on January 18). There they had levelled various allegations against Singh and the federation, including sexual exploitation, mental harassment, death threats, and financial misappropriation.

Following that the Sports Ministry had intervened and constituted an investigation committee to both investigate the complaints of the wrestlers and take over the day-to-day functioning of the WFI. At the time the wrestlers had made known their disappointment that the government did not consult them before forming the oversight committee. The deadline for the committee to submit their report had initially been four weeks but had since been extended