IOA Forms a Seven-Member Committee Upon Receipt of Sexual Harassment Complaint Against WFI President

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has formed a seven-member Committee to probe the charges leveled against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, upon receipt of a letter from wrestlers in this regard. The letter included the signatures of top athletes, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Deepak Punia, Bajrang Punia, and Ravi Dahiya.

A sports federation being a workplace comes within the ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It can be gathered from Section 2(o)(iv) of the Act, which specifies that a workplace includes “any sports institute, stadium, sports complex, or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto”. The WFI has an ethics committee that looks into the issues arising within the workplace relating to fair play, match-fixing, fraud, and even sexual harassment. However, the federation does not have a designated Internal Complaints Committee as mandated under the Act for workplaces having more than ten employees, and the WFI’s ethics committee does not have any female members.

Apart from the sexual harassment allegation, the letter refers to the incompetency of coaches and science staff and the misappropriation of funds in the WFI. It has also been claimed that senior wrestlers received only part of the contract payments from the WFI they were entitled to.

The letter further highlights that the wrestler, Vinesh Phogat contemplated suicide after being “mentally harassed and tortured” by the WFI President for missing out on the Olympic Medal in Tokyo. Through the letter, the wrestlers requested the IOA to form an inquiry committee, demanded the resignation of the WFI President, dissolution of the WFI, and the formation of a new Committee to look into the WFI in consultation with the wrestlers. Subsequently, the committee was set up by the IOA executive council after an emergency executive council meeting was held.