Hug Sans Sexual Intent Not Offence: Bhushan’s Lawyer; But Where's Consent?

The outgoing WFI chief is defending himself against the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him. Advocate Rajiv Menon is representing Bhushan at Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court.

Kalyani Ganesan
Aug 10, 2023 15:52 IST
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

Image Credits: File Photo

The counsel of outgoing Wrestling Federation of India Chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh told the Delhi High Court that hugging or touching a woman without sexual intent should not count as a sexual offence. The outgoing WFI chief is defending himself against the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him.

Advocate Rajiv Menon, Brij Bhushan’s counsel at Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court, argued that the allegations of women grapplers were time-barred. He pointed out that the wrestlers said they didn’t file the complaint for five years because they were concerned about their careers, which he claimed wasn’t a valid explanation. So, he stated that "prospective grounds" were being made now.

Hugging Without Sexual Intent Not Offence, Says Counsel - But What About Consent?

He also noted that male coaches hugging female wrestlers were normal in wrestling events where most of the coaches are male. He added that there are rarely any female coaches and that there is no restriction that only female coaches should coach female players.


The lawyer pointed out that it was normal for a male coach to hug a player out of anxiety or for good achievement.

Referring to the allegations levelled against Brij Bhushan for inappropriate touching and hugging, the lawyer said that was just "simple contact." He argued that for an act to constitute sexual assault or the use of criminal force to outrage a woman’s modesty, there must be assault and criminal force. He noted that "touching certainly has no criminal force."

He stated that touching a woman without sexual intent only qualified as an offence under Section 354A (Sexual Harassment) of the Indian Penal Code, and if 354A applied, the complainant was also barred for time.


What About Body Boundaries And Consent?

How can touching and hugging a woman without consent not be considered an offence? Regardless of the presence of sexual intent, there’s something called body boundaries and consent. A male coach hugging a female player as an act of appreciation or out of anxiety would also be wrong if there was no consent involved. It’s not “normal” for anyone to hug or touch another person without their consent.

Assuming there was no sexual intent involved, isn’t it still wrong for a man to touch a woman without her consent?


At a time when we are discussing consent in the bedroom between a married couple and when a whole lot of us expect consent to be made legally and morally mandatory even in a matrimonial relationship, how can a man hugging or touching a woman he barely knows be "normalised?"

Does being the chief of an institution, a sports coach, or someone of power come with the entitlement to touch and hug women? There’s something called personal space, and we don’t randomly allow everyone into the closest circle. People we meet while socialising are allowed to stay only within the social space, and that would include professional relationships.

People cannot simply take the liberty to cross their boundaries and invade our intimate or personal space, which is only reserved for partners and friends, respectively. While I wouldn’t say a male coach and a female player never hug each other or enter into the radius of each other’s personal space, it should happen only if they share a close enough bond and with consent.


To put it simply, this counterargument seems like an attempt to evade the law using loopholes. While a coach might feel it's okay to appreciate a hug, a player might not be comfortable with it; while a coach might be nervous about a match or assume that a hug might ease down a player’s anxiety, the player might or might not be okay with it. They might have even hugged earlier, but consent matters at all times. It’s basic and doesn’t take a genius to understand basic body boundaries and consent.

Suggested Reading: Sexual Harassment Accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh Gets Interim Bail

Views expressed by the author are their own

#Brij Bhushan #Women wrestlers #Sexual harassment #Hugging Without Sexual Intent