Wrestling-India ministry suspends scandal-hit federation

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), trying to recover from a sexual harassment scandal, suffered a fresh setback when the sports ministry suspended it and sacked a new slate of officers it elected.

The ministry took the actions on Sunday after the federation elected a president backed by his predecessor, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been charged with sexual harassment and criminal intimidation.

Singh denies any wrongdoing and is out on bail.

“Newly elected body appears to be in complete control of former office bearers,” the ministry said in a letter seen by Reuters. “The business of the Federation is being run from the premises controlled by former office bearers.”

The ministry declined to comment. Singh and his successor, Sanjay Singh, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

On Sunday, Sanjay Singh, who is not related to the other Singh, told Reuters TV partner ANI: “The previous president has announced his retirement from wrestling administration… I’d request others to move on and not let it affect the future of the wrestlers.”

The WFI is already suspended by the game’s global governing body, the United World Wrestling, for failing to hold the election on time.

While a top woman wrestler has quit the game in protest at the outcome of the election, Singh, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, was seen celebrating the victory of his loyalist.

In the letter, the ministry asked the Indian Olympic Association to form an ad hoc committee to run the federation, saying the election results raised “serious concerns” about the “governance and integrity of the WFI”.

“This requires for immediate and stringent corrective measures to uphold the principle of good governance in sports organisation,” the ministry said.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by William Mallard)