Delhi Police tells SC preliminary inquiry might be needed before FIR against WFI president for sexual harassment allegations

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that if it feels the need for registration of an FIR, it may done without a preliminary enquiry. Interestingly, in 2014, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in Lalita Kumari versus Government of UP & Ors, had held that the registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code if the information discloses commission of a cognisable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.

ON Wednesday, the Delhi Police, through Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, informed the Supreme Court that a preliminary enquiry might be needed before registering a first information report (FIR) into the allegations of sexual harassment made by women wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India president and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament Brijbhushan Sharan Singh.

Mehta made this submission while mentioning the matter before a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha. Mehta added that if the court feels the need for registration of an FIR, it may done without a preliminary enquiry.

CJI Dr Chandrachud asked Mehta to furnish the material with the Delhi Police by Friday, when the matter would be heard, as directed by the Bench yesterday.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for the petitioners, submitted that he also had an additional affidavit to file.

On Tuesday, the Bench comprising CJI Dr Chandrachud and Justice Narasimha had issued notice to the Delhi Police on a petition filed by seven women wrestlers, including one minor, seeking registration of an FIR against Singh.

There are serious allegations of sexual harassment in the petition, which is instituted by professional international wrestlers who have represented India. The matter requires the consideration of this Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution,” the Bench had observed.

The women wrestlers began a dharna at Jantar Mantar in January this year demanding action against Singh. On January 20, taking cognisance of the allegations of sexual harassment, the Indian Olympic Association, led by retired Indian track and field athlete and nominated member of Rajya Sabha P.T. Usha, formed a seven-member committee, headed by boxer and former member of Rajya Sabha M.C. Mary Kom, to probe the charges.

Around the same time, the wrestlers decided to call off the protest after a marathon second round of talks with the Union Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Anurag S. Thakur. Thakur committed to the formation of an oversight committee to investigate the allegations. Since no action against Singh has been forthcoming, the victims decided to resume their protests this month.

Pertinently, in 2014, A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in Lalita Kumari versus Government of UP & Ors, had held that the registration of an FIR is mandatory under Section 154 (information in cognisable cases) of the Criminal Procedure Code if the information discloses commission of a cognisable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.

The Bench also enumerated the category of cases in which a preliminary inquiry may be made. They are:

  • Matrimonial disputes and family disputes
  • Commercial offences
  • Medical negligence cases
  • Corruption cases
  • Cases where there is an abnormal delay or laches in initiating criminal prosecution; for example, over three months’ delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for the delay.

The Constitution Bench had noted that these categories were only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry. Importantly, the Bench had held that a preliminary inquiry should be made time-bound and, in any case, it should not exceed seven days’ time.

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