For the first time, stalking and voyeurism got defined as non-bailable offences under the Indian Penal Code in Justice J.S. Verma's report after the 2012 Nirbhaya case. After a decade, the police is piecing together evidence to investigate these offences.
At the centre of a shameful public jostling between famed women wrestlers demanding action and a defiant denial by Brij Bhushan Singh- the accused Member of Parliament and Wrestling Federation of India chief, stands the Delhi police, which is facing a litmus test to conduct a fair investigation and bring justice.
The onus lies with the Special Investigation Team, consisting of senior officers of Delhi police including a lady officer, to conclude the investigations soon as public outcry rages over the perceived inaction of the Delhi police. More than a month has passed since FIRs were registered against Brij Bhushan Singh on April 28, accusing him of sexually harassing women wrestlers, including a minor. On the complaint of the wrestlers, his statement was recorded and he was asked to submit a few documents. Bhushan has denied all allegations levelled against him. Statement of WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar was also recorded as he is also an accused in one of the FIRs of the Delhi Police. Police sources said Brij Bhushan has asked for the collection of some video evidence and mobile data in his clarification to the police.
Subsequently, an SIT has been formed, with six police teams including four women police officers. The case is being supervised by a woman DCP who is examining all the evidence and alleged links to the sexual assault case before it submits a final report.
While there is clamour for a speedy probe and expectation that the police should submit its final report within a fortnight, Suman Nalwa, Delhi police PRO, who is also part of the SIT, said there is no timeframe to conclude the investigation.
“The case is under active investigation. We cannot give a time frame to it as the investigation is still under progress. Once the investigation is complete, necessary legal action will be taken,’’ Nalwa told THE WEEK.
While the attempt of the Delhi police has been to conclude the investigations soon, there are conflicting claims and discrepancies in some statements that have delayed the probe, sources said. With the police examining whether the victim (minor) was a minor at the time of the incident, there is shock and rage among the victims as they claim that even if the girl was not a minor at the time of the incident that does not reduce the crime.
The offence of sexual harassment, stalking, offensive remarks, and voyeurism had been explained in a most painstaking manner by late Justice J.S. Verma in his report to the government after the 2012 Nirbhaya case. For the first time, stalking and voyeurism got defined as non-bailable offences under the Indian Penal Code.
After a decade, the enforcers of these laws are piecing together evidence to establish whether the crime has taken place in the first place and also if the offence demands immediate action like the arrest of the accused. The Justice Verma report was far-sighted when it spoke of police reforms as the next step to remove the grey areas when it comes to handling the new sections under IPC to deal with the various crimes against women.
In the FIRs, the victims have alleged that during certain tournaments, the accused somehow managed to get a room booked on the same floor as that of the players and used to walk in the lobby of the floor of the hotel. The complainant says she was offered different items for consumption, which were not approved by the coaches, and this was done solely in order to have a conversation. During her stay, she noticed all the female athletes used to travel in groups whenever they left their respective rooms in order to avoid meeting the accused alone. The accused would single them out, ask inappropriate personal questions and even call girls to the room at night. The complainant goes on to explain how the behaviour evolved into physical gestures, a claim denied vociferously by the accused.
Now, whether it is a case of innocent until proven guilty and whether the offences under POCSO Act require a separate legal route, including jurisdictions of courts, which is not similar to the Sexual Offences Act, 2012 – which deals with sections 354, 354A and 354D of IPC (outraging the modesty of a woman; sexual harassment and stalking) in the case against Brij Bhushan- will be clear in the next few days. In the meantime, more questioning may take place in the matter as police officials said the investigation will continue.