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Sexual harassment case: Delhi court defers hearing on framing of charges against ex-WFI chief

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New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) A Delhi court on Thursday deferred a hearing concerning the framing of charges against BJP MP and former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, in an alleged sexual harassment case by six women wrestlers.

The decision to defer came after Singh submitted an application seeking further examination of evidence concerning his whereabouts on the alleged date of the incident, September 7, 2022.

He told the court that he was not in Delhi when one of the complainant wrestlers was allegedly sexually harassed.

Presiding over the case, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Priyanka Rajpoot of Rouse Avenue Court, deferred the pronouncement of the order and will hear the matter on April 26.

The application argues for a detailed investigation into Singh's claims of being abroad when the incident purportedly took place. The application also demanded that the Delhi Police produce the Call Detail Record (CDR).

APP Atul Srivastava, representing the Delhi Police, opposed the application, arguing that the timing of the request was strategic and intended to prolong the case.

He stressed the potential legal ramifications of reopening the investigation at this stage. Meanwhile, the legal counsel for the complainants criticised the application as a tactic to delay the proceedings.

They argued that the necessary documents should have been procured earlier under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which deals with the communication of evidence to the accused.

In February, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh had sought to be discharged in the case, citing delay in reporting the alleged offence and contradictions in the complainants' statements. Earlier during the proceedings, the complainants and police had said that there was ample evidence to proceed with the trial against the accused individuals.

The Delhi Police had refuted the argument of the accused that certain incidents occurred overseas and thus fell outside the jurisdiction of Delhi courts, contending that the alleged acts of sexual harassment, attributed to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, both abroad and in India, including Delhi, constituted part of the same offence. His counsel had told the court that the incidents were said to have occurred in 2012 but were only reported to the police in 2023.

In addition, he had contended discrepancies in the timing and locations of the alleged incidents, asserting no clear link between them.

The defence had pointed out contradictions between the complainants' affidavits and statements.

The Delhi Police had contended that incidents of alleged sexual harassment, whether occurring overseas or within the country, were interconnected and part of the same transaction. Hence, the police had said that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

The BJP MP had earlier questioned the jurisdiction of the Delhi court claiming that there was no action or consequence which happened in India.

Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava, representing the Delhi Police, had argued that under Section 354 of the IPC, the case is not time-barred, as it carries a maximum punishment of five years.

Addressing the issue of delay in filing complaints, Srivastava had brought up the issue of fear among the women wrestlers, saying that wrestling held immense significance in their lives, and they were hesitant to come forward due to concerns about jeopardising their careers.

The prosecution had argued that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's defence, claiming his actions were fatherly, demonstrated awareness of his acts.

The BJP MP’s justification that he was checking breathing patterns had contradicted the victims' statements about inappropriate touching.

The police had claimed that there was sufficient prima facie evidence to proceed with the trial against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and co-accused Tomar.

The prosecution had earlier said that the act of sexual harassment of the victims was a continuing offence, as it did not stop at any particular time.

Delhi Police had also told the court that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh never missed an opportunity to "sexually harass" women wrestlers, adding that there is sufficient evidence to frame charges against him and proceed with the trial.

--IANS

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