The Delhi Police on Thursday filed a charge sheet running over 1,000 pages with statements of around 200 witnesses in the alleged sexual harassment case against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Besides filing the charge sheet before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Mahima Rai of the Rouse Avenue Courts, the Delhi Police also approached the Patiala House Courts seeking cancellation of an FIR by a ‘minor’ wrestler accusing Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment. The 550-page report filed by the police said that no corroborative evidence was found to support the allegations levelled in the FIR.
The charge sheet mentions Brij Bhushan as an accused for offences under Sections 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (making sexually coloured remarks), and 354D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
In the charge sheet, former WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar, who is also an accused in the case, has been charged with offences under Sections 109 (offer a bribe), 354, 354A, and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.
The charges against Brij Bhushan under various sections of the IPC raise questions about whether the accused will be apprehended.
In the the FIR registered at the Connaught Place police station on April 21, it was alleged by six prominent adult grapplers that Singh allegedly attempted to coerce one athlete into sexual acts by offering to provide her with “supplements”, invited another wrestler to his bed and hugged her, as well as assaulted and inappropriately touched other athletes.
Let’s look at the quantum of sentence the outgoing WFI chief might face if proven guilty of the charges levelled against him.
Under Section 354A of the IPC, the punishment is up to three years or fine; for Section 354D, it is up to five years and fine, while for Section 354, the punishment is up to five years and fine.
Legal experts said that Sections 354 and 354A are non-bailable, while Section 354D is bailable.
Supreme Court lawyer Vineet Jindal said that a charge sheet is filed in the court only if the investigating officer finds sufficient evidence during probe, with request to take cognizance of the offences under which the FIR was lodged.
“No arrest will be made now as the accused has already joined the investigation and is cooperating with the probe. Moreover, the offences under which arrest of the accused is demanded are prescribed punishments with sentence of not more than seven years.
“In the Arnesh Kumar judgement passed by the Supreme Court, the top court had specifically directed that arrest of the accused be avoided where the punishment is not more than seven years,” said Jindal, adding that statements of the complaintant is generally sufficient to file a charge sheet under Section 354 of the IPC.
In the Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar case, as per Section 41A of the CrPC and various judgments by the apex court, it was said that arrest of an accused is not obligatory if the maximum punishment prescribed for the offence is less than seven years of imprisonment.
According to Supreme Court lawyer Rudra Vikram Singh, as the charge sheet has been filed against Singh, he will have to now take bail from the concerned Magistrate.
“There is no obstacle getting bail after a charge sheet has been filed under Section 354. Trial will commence after framing of charges by the court,” said Singh.
When asked if Singh can be arrested in the case now, Ajay Chaudhary, a Delhi-based lawyer, said that the power to arrest is different from the need to arrest.
It is for the police to see whether to arrest an accused or it can file a charge sheet without arrest. The court can’t direct to arrest any accused during investigation, Chaudhary said.
“No one is above the law in the society. Every person, regardless of how powerful he may be, has to face the rigour of law. Also, there is presumption of innocence in favour of the accused until he is convicted by the court of law,” said Gurmeet Nehra, legal scholar and member, Supreme Court Bar Association.