With a posse of journalists and a galaxy of security personnel, courtroom number 503 was a sharp contrast to an otherwise quiet Rouse Avenue Court Complex in Delhi on Thursday afternoon.
“Politicians walk in here every day, but you have to be a 100 percent celebrity to attract this kind of security and media attention,” quipped an official, 20 minutes before the court began hearing the regular bail plea filed by BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and former WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar.
Singh and Tomar were first summoned to the court on Tuesday, over a month after a 1,000-page chargesheet was filed against them over allegations of sexual harassment and assault by women wrestlers. They were granted two-day interim bail two days ago with the court posting the matter for regular bail on Thursday.
Minutes before the hearing began today, advocate Harsh Vohra, appearing for the wrestlers, walked in, accompanied by a junior counsel. Singh’s legal team was led by senior advocate Rajiv Mohan, who arrived with an army of junior and briefing counsel. “In this case, it is all about the show of strength as a media trial,” remarked one of them.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Harjeet Singh Jaspal commenced the proceedings, but the MP was yet to arrive.
The MP eventually attended the hearing but was not present either when it began or when the order was announced. About an hour before the verdict, he had briefly met a few journalists Parliament. “Sir, your verdict is about to be announced, and you are smiling,” commented a reporter. “Hum to muskurate his rehte hain. Anand hai (I keep smiling. There is happiness),” responded the BJP MP, leaving in his white Fortuner.
Meanwhile, during the hearing, Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastav argued: “We can not flout any law. As per the amendment in 437, the court has to impose certain conditions on him. He may influence the witness, hence these conditions should be imposed on him.”
Vohra chipped in. “The accused has considerable influence both politically as well as the head of an organisation where all the complainants are involved. My submission is that he should not be granted bail. But if your honour is so inclined to grant, you may impose such strict conditions that none of the witnesses or complainants may be approached by him in any manner. And no effort should be made to tamper with evidence.”
“It is a serious apprehension in our matter,” said Vohra.
The judge then asked if the accused threatened him. “Has the accused approached you in any manner? Has there been any threat to you?”
Vohra responded, “Not directly, but individuals have approached from time to time.”
Justice Jaspal intervened. “Is there any documentation of it?”
“Not at the moment. But we apprehend that,” said Vohra.
Mohan countered: “If they are apprehending any threats, such happening will not occur in future…First of all, there were no such threats. But if they are apprehending, there will be no such incidents.”
Replying to agencies opposing the bail, Mohan argued the bail on the basis of the judgement passed in the Satyendra Kumar Antil vs CBI case – it had stressed on the importance of “bail over jail”.
The judge asked, “Is the mandate of Satyendra Kumar Antil vs CBI that the bail has to be granted if there is no arrest while the chargesheet is being filed?”
Looking at Mohan, Additional Public Prosecutor Srivastav smiled and intervened. “He is my older brother. We have learnt many things. He was a public prosecutor. There are two to three judgements back to back.”
Mohan interrupted at this point. “Kindly see, Satyendra Kumar.” He went on to cite other verdicts. “Sir, para 41, para 43, para 6 on page 98.” Vohra then took a seat next to Brij Bhushan as Mohan continued to argue for the next 12 minutes.
The judge then asked Srivastav. “Law is not static but dynamic,” said Srivastav, reiterating that conditions should be imposed if bail is granted.
As the judge began narrating the order to the stenographer, he asked Srivastav once again, “Just to clear your submission, you are opposing the bail?”
Srivastav responded. “I am opposing the bail on the grounds that he may not influence but submitting that he should be dealt with guidelines in the law.”
Justice Jaspal then told the stenographer to write that the additional public prosecutor is opposing the bail.
Srivastav intervened. “Sir, opposing the bail and submits to deal with it as per the guidelines…Sir, meri to sahi baat batane ki aadat hai (it’s my habit to say the right thing).”
Advocate Mohan pleaded. “Oppose mat likhwao (don’t write oppose).”
The judge continued to dictate the order to the stenographer.
Srivastav intervened again. “It is a request, I want to order one more line.”
The judge confirmed. “Additional PP submits that the prosecution is opposing the bail and that the accused be dealt with as per the law?”
“And the direction laid down by the honourable Supreme Court,” added Srivastav. “Remove the word oppose, and instead of it write – maybe dealt with as per the law. This is better.”
The judge said, “Shall I make the stenographer write that the prosecution is asking from beginning to end everything should be dealt with as per the law? Give your clear submission. Whether you are opposing or supporting the bail is my only question.”
Srivastav replied, “Sir, I am submitting that it should be dealt with as per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.”
The judge asked, “My question is whether you are opposing or supporting?”
Srivastav finally agreed. “Neither opposing or supporting. It should be dealt with guidelines.”
The judge asked the stenographer to rewrite Srivastav’s submission.
Minutes later, at about 4.20 pm, the court announced that Singh and Tomar have been granted regular bail with a bond of Rs 25,000 each.
Singh has been accused under sections 354, 354A, and 354D of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with criminal force for outraging a woman’s modesty, sexual harassment, and stalking, respectively. Tomar has been accused of abetting an offence and criminal intimidation under IPC sections 109 and 506, respectively, in addition to accusations of sexual harassment and outraging a woman’s modesty.
The FIR against Singh was filed only after the Supreme Court’s intervention in June. The MP was accused of sexually harassing several women wrestlers by many wrestling champions, including Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sangeeta Phogat, who also protested in the national capital seeking his arrest.
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