Sushil Kumar charged with murder in Chhatrasal Stadium case

Sushil Kumar (in yellow, foreground) and his associate Ajay Kumar (in red, background) after they were arrested on Sunday, May 23. PTI Photo

Olympic double-medallist Sushil Kumar, along with 17 others, has been charged with the murder of wrestler Sagar Dhankhad. The charges, which include rioting and criminal conspiracy, were framed by a Delhi court on Wednesday, setting the stage for their trial.

Sushil and the others are accused of assaulting Dhankhad, a former junior national wrestling champion, and his friends in the parking lot of Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi on May 4, 2021 over an alleged property dispute. Dhankhad later died of his injuries. Sushil was arrested on May 23 and has been in judicial custody since June 2, 2021.

Additional Sessions Judge Shivaji Anand also charged Sushil and others with kidnapping, voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery, wrongful restraint, robbery, robbery or dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt and criminal intimidation.

The court said that the facts and circumstances in the present case clearly reflected that all the accused persons had conspired to cause abduction and assaulted the victims resulting in the death of Dhankhad. The court noted that the main gate of the Chhatrasal Stadium had been locked, many of the accused persons possessed weapons, and the assault continued for around 30-40 minutes. According to the prosecution, after abducting Dhankhad and his friends, Sushil and his associates brutally assaulted them.

The court has summoned the accused for procedurally framing the charges on October 15.

What is the Chhatrasal Stadium death case?

On May 4 2021, Sagar, who used to compete in the 97-kg Greco-Roman category, was beaten to death just outside Delhi's Chhatrasal Stadium in a clash involving two groups. Sushil had been on the run since May 5, when an FIR was registered against him under IPC sections 302 (murder), 365 (abduction) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) at Model Town police station in Northwest Delhi. The Delhi Police then announced a reward of Rs. 1 lakh for any information regarding the two-time Olympic medallist's whereabouts.

Why is the Chhatrasal stadium significant for Indian wrestling?

The Chhatrasal stadium has been synonymous with Indian wrestling and Sushil had been synonymous with the stadium ever since he first started training there as a 14-year-old. He'd won both his Olympic medals while training here and had proceeded to take up an administrative position even as his career wound down. Sushil's successes, which include two Olympic medals and a world title, was instrumental in Indian wrestling's rise. His Olympic bronze in 2008 -- the first by an Indian wrestler in 56 years - paved the way for the likes of Yogeshwar Dutt, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya and, Geeta and Babita Phogat, their cousin Vinesh.

Sushil Kumar's previous brush with controversies

This is Sushil's most serious brush with the law. Previously, he was involved in a fracas involving his 2018 Rio Olympics representation. Maharashtra's Narsingh Yadav had won the quota but Sushil had wanted a trial. Yadav eventually ended up failing a dope test just weeks before the Olympics. That case remains unresolved but fingers were pointed at Sushil after an FIR accusing a young wrestler from Chhatrasal of tampering with his food.

In 2018, ahead of at the Commonwealth Games, Sushil's opponent Parveen Rana and his brother were assaulted by a group of people who said were supporters of Sushil after an ill-tempered bout. Rana and his brother ended up requiring hospital treatment and an FIR was registered against Sushil and his supporters.