On the eve of the Commonwealth Shooting Championship, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) plunged into crisis with the Supreme Court on Tuesday refusing to interfere with a trial court’s verdict declaring the election of its president and secretary-general illegal.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, refused to entertain NRAI’s petition against a verdict of the Delhi High Court that turned down its plea to stay the order setting aside the election of its office bearers.
Delhi Additional District Judge, Ina Malhotra, had on January 11 declared illegal the election of NRAI president Digvijay Singh and secretary-general Baljit Singh Sethi for violating Rule 13 of NRAI’s constitution that debars officer-bearer from contesting elections if he/she has held office for two consecutive terms.
The NRAI had then moved the Delhi High Court against the order but did not get any immediate relief. The matter will be heard in detail by the High court on March 3.
With the Supreme Court refusing to come to their rescue, both Singh and Sethi —who have been ruling the roost for decades — are left with no option but to be mere onlookers in the next election. Similarly, a majority of the NRAI office-bearers, holding office for more than two terms, would not be entitled to contest the forthcoming election.
Raju Soni, an NRAI life member who took the matter to court, said, “This is a moral victory for us.” The real problem is that there is no properly elected NRAI governing body as on date to conduct the championship beginning on February 18, and it will take at least six weeks to complete the formalities for electing a new body.
The question is who will conduct the championship?
The Sports Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Injeti Srinivas, said, “As far as we know, the case was against NRAI president and secretary-general. It has nothing to do with the rest of the governing body. They will hold the championship.”
Soni had alleged that the secretary-general had been in office since June 1985, continuously for six terms, and Singh, elected president in 1999, was still occupying the office after the completion of two terms.