KH.NOBIN SINGH -
(1.) Heard Shri M. Devananda, learned Advocate appearing for the petitioners; Shri Ruchir Mishra and Shri Sharan Dhulia, learned Advocates appearing for the Fencing Association of India; Shri M. Hemchandra, Senior Advocate appearing for the respondent No.3 and Shri Lenin Hijam, learned Addl. Advocate General appearing for the State respondents.
(2.) Since the above writ petitions have arisen out of similar set of facts, the same are being disposed of by this Court vide its common judgment and order.
WP(C) NO. 118 of 2020
3.1 The validity and correctness of the order dated 07-02-2020 issued by the Fencing Association of India (hereinafter referred to as 'the FAI') is under challenge in this writ petition in view of the judgment and orders dated 01-03-2016 and dated 09-05-2016 passed by this Court and the alleged violation of the principles of natural justice and in addition thereto, a prayer has been made by the petitioner association to direct the respondents and in particular, the FAI from interfering with the functioning of the petitioner association in violation of the provisions of the Manipur Societies Registration Act, 1989 and the rules made thereunder.
3.2 The petitioner, Manipur Fencing Association (hereinafter referred to as 'the petitioner association') is an association duly registered under the provisions of the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act, 1860'. It was established with the aims and objectives of promoting and developing the game of fencing in the State of Manipur and the country in general and is affiliated to the Manipur Olympic Association (MOA) vide a certificate dated 05-03-1989 issued by it. Like other association or body of sports registered with the Registrar of Societies, Manipur, the petitioner association has a constitution which defines the powers, functions and duties of its office bearers and lays down the rules concerning its administration and its relations with the affiliating units/ members.
3.3 The petitioner association is affiliated to the FAI and under its aegis, the fencers from the State were able to participate in many national and international sporting events/ championships. Not only the players but also the officials of the petitioner association were deputed/ selected as referees/ officials in various championships/ national sporting events. The FAI is a registered association as well as a non-governmental national association with non-profit making purposes of national interest and in other words, it is a legal entity having its own Memorandum of Association, Constitution etc., thereby laying down the rules governing its own functioning and matters concerning it in relation to the members and affiliating units etc.
3.4 Facts and circumstances as stated in the writ petition, in short, are that since the last election of the petitioner association was held on 14-12-2014, the next election ought to have been held before the 13-12- 2018 but the same could not be held due to the law and order problems in the State of Manipur regarding the implementation of the Inner Line Permit System (ILP) in the State. There were frequent bandhs, blockades, curfews, riots etc. in the State of Manipur and in particular, the Imphal Valley, because of which the election of the petitioner association could not be held and in the meantime, the then Secretary, Shri W. Ranjit Singh had expired, for which a condolence message dated 15-12-2019 was circulated to all concerned. The post of the Secretary of the petitioner association which remained vacant for some time, was later filled up on in-charge basis, so that the functioning of the petitioner association would not be disrupted.
3.5 After the law and order situation in the State having improved considerably, the petitioner association initiated the process of holding an annual general body meeting with the election of new office bearers, for which a communication dated 23-01-2020 was sent to the Secretary General, the FAI requesting him to send an observer for the annual general body meeting to be held 09-02-2020. On the same day i.e.23-01- 2020, a letter dated 23-01-2020 was sent to the Director, Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of Manipur for sending an observer on the day of holding the election. On the next day, a letter dated 24-01-2020 was sent to the Registrar of Societies for appointment of a Returning Officer for the election to be held on 09-02- 2020. The Returning Officer was duly appointed and accordingly, the I/C Secretary of the petitioner association Issued a press release dated 25-01-2020 informing about the annual general body meeting and the election of the petitioner association to be held on the 09-02-2020. On 01-02-2020, a communication was sent to the Registrar of Societies, Manipur requesting him to send an observer for the annual general body meeting to be held on 09-02-2020.
3.6 Thereafter, the Returning Officer issued a notice dated 03-02- 2020 notifying the election to be held on 09-02-2020 and after the election notification being issued by him, the i/c Secretary issued a final voter list for the election to be held on the 09-02-2020 and the names of the nominated members for the election to the various posts were also issued accordingly.
3.7 In the meantime, the office of the Registrar of Societies, Manipur wrote a letter dated 07-02-2020 informing that Shri Deepak Khuraijam, Inspector C.S. was deputed as the Meeting Observer for the annual general body meeting to be held on 09-02-2020.
3.8 To the shock and surprise of the petitioner association, the FAI issued an office order dated 07-02-2020 dissolving the petitioner association by invoking Article 19(iv) of its Memorandum of Association and appointed the respondent No.3 to look after all the activities and to administer the affairs and functioning of the petitioner association in respect of the game of fencing in Manipur. The order further states that a decision has been made to suspend and dissolve the petitioner association and after the submission of a report by the Enquiry Committee, it will constitute an Ad-hoc Committee to look after the fencing activities in Manipur till a new election is conducted as per the National Sports Development Code, 2011, MYAS and in accordance with the constitution of the FAI.
3.9 Being aggrieved by the order dated 07-02-2020, the instant writ petition has been filed by the petitioner association questioning it on various grounds. It has been submitted by it that the FAI has failed to take cognisance of the election process being undertaken by the petitioner association. The FAI while issuing the order dated 07-02-2020 suspending/ dissolving the petitioner association and entrusting to the respondent No.3 the task of looking after all the activities and to administrate the affairs and functioning of the fencing activities in the State, has illegally and arbitrarily interfered with the functioning of the petitioner association. It has further been submitted that on bare perusal of its Memorandum of Association/ constitution, the FAI is nowhere conferred the power to interfere with the functioning and working of any affiliating member, leave alone the petitioner association. The Memorandum of Association of the FAI was framed/ made so as to lay down the rules and regulations for its own functioning and to maintain and regulate the standard of fencing as a sport in the country. Although the petitioner association by duly following the provisions of the constitution conducted its election, the FAI had acted illegally and arbitrarily and failed to take cognisance of the election process initiated by the petitioner association. The contention of the FAI that after the submission of a report by the Inquiry Committee, it will constitute an Ad-hoc Committee to look after the fencing activities in Manipur till a new election is held, goes to show the intent and motive of the FAI to accommodate persons of its choice thereby violating the principles of natural justice. Article 19(iv) which provides for expulsion of a member from the FAI, has been misquoted in the impugned order to justify its interference with the affairs and functioning of the petitioner Association in order to accommodate the respondent No.3 illegally and arbitrarily. In a similar case pertaining to the Sepak Takraw Federation of India (hereinafter referred to as 'the STFI'), the validity and correctness of the constitution of an Ad-hoc Committee after the petitioner therein being disaffiliated by it, was challenged wherein this Court vide its Judgment and Order dated 01-03-2016 held that STFI had no power and jurisdiction to interfere with the affairs/ functioning of any of its affiliating units; that there was no provisions in its Constitution to constitute Ad-Hoc Committee and that the STFI had no authority to constitute Ad-Hoc Committee. The STFI being aggrieved by it, preferred writ appeals being WA No.15 of 2016 and WA No.16 of 2016 before the Division Bench of this Court which dismissed them vide its Judgment and Order dated 09-05-2016 upholding the judgment and order of the learned Single judge. Similar is the case with the Cycling Association of India which constituted an Ad-Hoc Committee and it came to be challenged before this Court, by way of a writ petition being WP (C) No,431 of 2019, which stayed the constitution of Ad-hoc Committee vide order dated 29- 05-2019. Since this Court having held that such an association like the FAI, cannot interfere with the functioning of its affiliated units/ associations, the case of the petitioner association is covered by the said judgment and orders and consequently, the impugned order dated 07-02- 2020 deserves to be quashed and set aside. The impugned order dated 07-02-2020 is not sustainable in law, as it was issued by the FAI without any authority of law and without proper application of its mind and is contrary to the judgment and orders passed by this Court. ;