In a meeting with the Union sports minister Anurag Thakur, wrestlers were assured that a chargesheet would be filed by the Delhi Police by June 15 and elections to the Wrestling Federation of India would be held by June 30, without Singh’s close associates contesting.
WOMEN wrestlers and their allies decided to temporarily suspend their protest seeking, among other things, the immediate arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament (MP) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, after being assured by the Union Minister of Sports Anurag Thakur that a chargesheet in the case will be filed by June 15.
In a meeting held yesterday at the invitation of the sports minister, the government also agreed that Singh or his close associates would not be appointed to handle the affairs of the WFI in future. The election of office bearers andexecutive committee members of the WFI “should be conducted by June 30”, Thakursaid after the meeting.
“Players’ opinions should be considered in this regard,” he further said.
An ‘internal complaints committee’ (ICC) with “a woman as head”, as mandated under thePrevention of Sexual Harassment Act (PoSH), 2013, will also be formed within the WFI, Thakur added.
First information reports (FIRs) lodged against protesting wrestlers and their allies on May 28— the day on which the new Parliament was inaugurated— would be withdrawn, Olympic bronze medallist freestyle wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik conveyed to the media after the meeting.
Charges relating to rioting and unlawful assembly, among other things, were invoked against dozens, through an FIR registered at the Parliament Street police station.
A ‘public’ meeting
Wednesday’s meeting may be seen as a successor to Sunday’s midnight meeting between the Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah and certain protesting wrestlers’. Shah is reported to have assured them of an impartial probe against Singh.
Yesterday’s meeting is said to have materialised afterThakur’s tweet at 12:47 a.m. on Wednesday that said, “The government is willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues. I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same”.
The wrestlers who had met Shah on Sunday arereported to have emphasised that all future talks should be held ‘publicly’ for the sake of transparency.
Election sans Singh family
Singh, having served three terms as president of WFI since 2012, is not eligible to contest elections, as per theNational Sports Development Code of India. Yet, the assurance by the government that his close associates would not contest the next elections is significant since his son, Karan Bhushan Singh, has been one of the vice presidents of the WFI since 2019, and by virtue a member of the executive committee. Besides, Singh’s son-in-law, Aditya Pratap Singh is the joint secretary of the WFI.
The executive committee of the WFI was dissolved by the government on April 27 this year. To manage the affairs and conduct elections, anad hoc committee was formed withWushu Association of India president Bhupender Singh Bajwa and rifle coachSuma Shirur as members. The third member— a retired high court judge— is yet to be appointed.
ICC ‘with a woman as head’
As noted above, it was assured by the Union sports minister that an ICC with “a woman as head” would be formed, as per the PoSH Act.
The WFI has asexual harassment committee, though its mandate appears to be beyond merely investigating complaints of sexual harassment at workplace, and it does not meet the mandatory requirements for the constitution of an ICC.
The said panel consists of four male office bearers of the WFI and only one female member—Sakshi Malik.
The stated mandate of WFI’s sexual harassment committee is “to ensure ethical practices and fair play in sports including elimination of doping practices, match fixing, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports”, as per itswebsite.
Considering the above, “the WFI has established an ethics commission”, the website states. It is not clear whether this panel was formed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment or ethical malpractices.
As perSection 4(2) of the PoSH Act, an ICC shall constitute of the following members:
Presiding officer: A woman employed at a senior level at the workplace from amongst employees.
Internal members: Not less than two; from employees, preferably committed to the cause of women or who have experience in social work or have legal knowledge.
Independent member: One; from amongst non-government organisations (NGO) or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment.
Last month, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)issued notices to 16 of the 30 national sports federations in India for failing to meet the compliance requirements regarding the constitution of ICCs.
Dozens of protesters who had attempted to march to the Parliament were detained and werecharged under sections188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant),186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions),353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty),332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Punia also suggested that the assurances given by the government would be discussed with khap leaders, leaders of farmers’ unions and their allies. “If no action is taken by June 15, we will continue our protest.”