Supreme Court clears decks for WFI elections, stays Gauhati HC order putting polls on hold
The WFI elections were to be conducted on July 11 but the Gauhati High Court had stayed the polls, following Assam Wrestling Association's (AWA) plea seeking right to participate in the election.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections by staying an order of the Gauhati High Court which had put it on hold following a challenge by the Assam Wrestling Association.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and S V Bhatti directed that the election process be started immediately.
The high court had on June 25 stayed the WFI elections scheduled for July 11 while hearing a petition filed by the Assam Wrestling Association (AWA) over its right to participate in the polls.
The state association had claimed it was entitled to be an affiliated member of the WFI with voting rights but it was denied recognition by the national federation despite its executive committee having recommended the same on November 15, 2014.
June 25 was the last date to submit the names for the electoral college.
The top court passed the order on a petition filed by Andhra Pradesh Amateur Wrestling Association, and issued notices to the union sports ministry, the Wrestling Federation of India, AWA and others on a plea challenging the June 25 order of the high court.
The counsel appearing for Andhra Pradesh Amateur Wrestling Association (APAWA), told the bench that the elections to WFI were getting delayed after a third party appeared before the high court on Sunday and got the matter stayed.
The bench then proceeded to issue notice and stayed the high court order.
In its petition before the top court, the APAWA submitted the high court passed the order on a Sunday without any notice to it or any other voter or state associations that are members of WFI.
"It is a settled principle of law that once the election process has been set in motion, it should not be interdicted and any grievances that the contestants and/or voters may have, may be later agitated by way of an election petition," the plea filed through advocate Anuj Tyagi said.
Reacting on the court order, R K Purushottam, executive member of the WFI and president of Andhra Wrestling Association, told PTI that the election process should start immediately.
"The court said the election process should start on an immediate basis, I am hoping to get a full order soon. We decided last week that we have to move to the apex court since the elections were getting delayed unnecessarily. The Assam association is not active for the last 10 years. It is almost closed. That's why we challenged the high court order. Two elections were held earlier but Assam did not come forward then," Purushottam said.
The high court had on Monday fixed July 28 as the next date for hearing the petition filed by the Assam Wrestling Association.
The AWA had sought stalling of the election process unless it was granted affiliation to the WFI and allowed to nominate its representative to the electoral college.
The WFI, before being suspended by the sports ministry, had set May 7 as the election date.
The sports ministry had ordered the Wrestling Federation of India to suspend all its ongoing activities with immediate effect after the ministry decided to appoint an oversight committee to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, after his meeting with protesting wrestlers, had said WFI elections will be held by June 30.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) then announced that elections will be held on July 4 but the returning officer set July 6 as the new date.
However, after five disaffiliated state bodies staked claim they were eligible for voting, the returning officer yet again delayed the elections by five days, setting July 11 as the poll date.