Minerva Punjab FC files criminal defamation lawsuit against AIFF
What's the story?
I league champion Minerva Punjab FC, have called upon the war on All India Football Federation by filing a criminal defamation lawsuit against the football governing body of the nation. Incidentally AIFF disciplinary committee on 13th May 2018, suspended Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, the exuberant owner of MPFC, for allegedly abusing a referee using racist language during the playoffs of U-18 Youth League in a match against Aizawl FC in Shillong. Last year, a different incident had seen Ranjit Bajaj being banned from stadiums for several matches. He had filed a lawsuit against AIFF that led to a subsequent lawsuit which accused AIFF General Secretary Mr. Kushal Das of contempt of court.
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Minerva Punjab has had one of the most scintillating run in I League 2017-18, as they were crowned champion of the nation, beating the likes of traditional giants Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and the high flying Neroca FC. In the course, they pocketed the ticket to AFC Champions League qualifiers, scheduled to kick off in the early phase of 2019. However, MPFC owner Ranjit Bajaj made the headlines for all wrong reasons as he allegedly abused the referee crossing the line of racial discrimination law. AIFF chose to take a strong action and imposed a ban on the volatile owner from all footballing activities for one year and a hefty fine of 10 lakhs.
Heart of the story
The orders passed on by AIFF disciplinary committee didn't go down well with Bajaj and his wife as Minerva Punjab FC approached the Delhi High Court on 30th May with Writ Petition and filed a civil defamation suit against the AIFF at a court in Chandigarh which sought damages of Rs 1 crore.
Justice Rajeev Shakdher took cognisance of the lack of procedure followed by Disciplinary Committee and questioned AIFF counsel regarding the undue urgency in passing the orders and decided that no fine shall have to be paid by Minerva until the case is heard by Appeals Committee who would have a period of 6 weeks to decide the appeal failing which they could be charged with contempt of court.
But Bajaj and his wife Henna seemed unperturbed and confirmed that Civil Defamation Suit claiming damages for defamation to the tune of Rs. 1 Crore against AIFF, AIFF Disciplinary Committee Chairman Mr. UN Bannerjee, and other AIFF officials had been filed in the court of Chandigarh in which notice has been issued to defendants to appear on 25th July 2018.
Although it was the 4th occasion in one year when Bajaj has made punishable offense, the volatile owner doesn't seem to go down without resilience.
In a press release, club director and Mr. Ranjit Bajaj's wife Mrs. Henna Singh said,
“We have not taken the grave accusations leveled against club owner and director Mr. Ranjit Bajaj lightly. The language used by the Disciplinary Committee Chairman Mr. U N Bannerjee and others in the order passed against Mr. Bajaj dated 30.05.2018 is sensational and defamatory, without any real merit or proof. I am sure that any Judge will be able to recognize the motive to malign us, we have faith in the judicial system and are confident that in the end, the truth will triumph.”
With Minerva Punjab FC all set to participate in the AFC Champions League Qualifiers in early 2019, it remains to see how AIFF reacts to this latest lawsuit against them as the future of the owner of I-League champion hangs in balance.