WFI elections likely to be held within two weeks

Returning officer MM Kumar, retired Chief Justice of the J&K High Court, to seek clarity on a couple of things from ad-hoc panel members in a meeting on Saturday.

CHENNAI: The long-pending election of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is likely to be held in the next two weeks. The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that the returning officer (RO) is open to proceed with the WFI election by announcing the revised schedule. Given the observations by the Apex Court, RO MM Kumar, retired Chief Justice of the J&K High Court, has called a meeting with the ad-hoc committee members on Saturday afternoon.

Bhupender Singh Bajwa and Suma Shirur, members of the ad-hoc panel, which is looking after wrestling in the country, have been called to clarify a couple of points, that the RO things are necessary before proceeding with the election. It is learnt the date of polling will be announced once the RO gets clarification from the ad-hoc panel.

"The first thing I want to clarify is whether any state association affiliated with the WFI has undergone election during the period when the polling was stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court," the RO told this daily.

What necessitated the move is the fact that election to the state unit could result in the change of office-bearers which in turn could cause changes in the names sent by the association in question for the electoral college, which had already been prepared by the RO.

"The second point to ponder is whether any court has pronounced a verdict on the WFI election during this period. The ad-hoc panel can throw light on these two issues so a meeting is scheduled on Saturday with its members," added Kumar.

Even if the panel gives the nod the polling can only be held after 10 days. As per Article XI (Notices and quorum for meetings) of the WFI constitution, a 10-day clear notice is required for calling an emergency general meeting. Going by the provision, the RO has to give notice if it gets all clear from the ad-hoc panel.

"The notice provision means the election cannot proceed at least for the next 10 days. The picture will get clear once I hold the meeting with the ad-hoc panel on these issues," said the RO.

Notably, the P&H High Court stayed the election on August 11, a day before the polling was scheduled. The stay deferred the election for the third time. Earlier, the returning officer had set July 6 as the election date before revising it to July 11. But the Assam association moved the Gauhati High Court and managed to get a stay on the July 11 polls on June 25.

Before the stay, former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran was in the fray against Sanjay Kumar Singh, a candidate from the Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's faction, for the president's post.

Darshan Lal was the candidate from Brij Bhushan's camp while Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) secretary Prem Chand Lochab was from another faction for the post of secretary. The nominations are unlikely to change at the moment.

It all started in January this year when top wrestlers including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik along with multiple Worlds medallist Vinesh Phogat levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan.

Later, the government set up an ad-hoc panel to run the sport in the country as Brij Bhushan was sidelined. In the meantime, United World Wrestling, the world governing body, also suspended the WFI forcing the country's wrestlers to compete under the UWW banner in the World Championships.

"We have waited for more than three months for the election so there is no issue in waiting for another couple of days. The only thing we don't want is another long delay. Wrestling has suffered a lot during this period and I really hope the RO comes up with the date for polling soon," said a source from Brij Bhushan's camp.

The ball is now in the ad-hoc panel's court, which has given affidavits in the Supreme Court to vacate the stay imposed on the election by the P&H High Court.

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