New Delhi: The much-awaited Indian Olympic Association's election took a dramatic twist on Saturday with the chairman of the election committee, S Y Quraishi resigning from the post, leading to a likely postponement of the controversial polls barely a week before the scheduled date.
Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner, resigned from the post saying his conscience did not allow him to continue after the apex sports body backtracked on its commitment.
The IOA had formed the three-member committee to oversee the three-time postponed elections but Quraishi's resignation has forced the sports body to find a replacement for him.
As a result, the process of scrutiny of nominations for the IOA, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed by the Returning Officer.
Returning Officer Chief Justice (Retd) V K Bali has said that scrutiny process will only start after the appointment of the new Chairman/Member of the election commission.
This has created a very piquant situation as it is going to have an impact on the schedule of the elections which are slated for November 25. It appears unlikely that it would be held on schedule since the entire process has been delayed.
In his resignation letter, Quraishi said, "I appreciate that IOA has appointed an independent committee for the election. But I can't continue because IOA had accepted govt's sports guidelines but later doesn't want to follow it."
"I have been advocating the government sports guidelines right from my tenure as sports secretary. Now IOA is not following the guidelines, and my conscience doesn't allow me to continue. It will be a conflict of interest to continue in the committee," Quraishi wrote.
The government sports guidelines puts a restriction on contestants' age and tenure of office-bearers. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had yesterday made it clear that the elections should be held as per the Olympic charter and not the government's sports code.
IOA's acting president V K Malhotra confirmed that he has received Quraishi's resignation letter and said that IOA has not backtracked on its commitment.
"The IOA's stand has been very clear. We have always said that the government guidelines are illegal and unconstitutional but we were forced to adhere to it by the High Court," Malhotra told PTI.
However, the matter has become complicated with the IOC stepping in and asserting that any election under the Sports Code of the Government of India will not be acceptable to them as it will violate the IOC charter.
"I have replied to the IOC communiqué last night in which I made it clear IOA's opposition to the Sports Code but stated that because of the High Court of Delhi directives this provision was included," Malhotra said.
"It is a very strange situation. IOC wants us to follow the Olympic charter and the government wants us to follow its own guidelines. The High Court says it should follow the government guidelines and the IOA constitution which are diametrically opposite. So, everything is very confusing at this stage," he added.
Malhotra said he will have consultation with other senior members of the IOA and will name the Chairman/ member of the Election commission at the earliest.
He said all the three -- the Sports Code, High Court of Delhi directive and IOC communiqué -- are at variance and has led to a lot of different interpretations.
"We will have to go into the whole issue in detail and take a decision on this very important issue," Malhotra said.
Yesterday, the IOC had rejected the decision to hold the upcoming elections under sports code and made it clear that the polls will have to be held "exclusively" under the Olympic Charter and the IOA constitution.
Bali had notified that the polls will be held under the sports code but the world body said that this was "unacceptable" as it would violate the Olympic Charter and autonomy of National Olympic bodies.
"... From a document signed by a member of the Election Commission on 5 November 2012 ... we have noticed with great concern that the so-called 'provisions governing the elections in the sports code of the Government of India' would be applicable for the IOA elections and would prevail in case of discrepancy with the provisions of the Constitution/By-laws of the IOA," the IOC had stated in a letter.
"This would be against the Olympic Charter and the fundamental principle of autonomy of the NOCs in their internal operations (including their elections) and, consequently, this would not be acceptable to the IOC/OCA.
"Therefore, we wish to make it clear that the IOA elections must be conducted exclusively on the basis of the Olympic Charter and the current Constitution/By-laws of the IOA, as approved by the IOC, without any Government interference in this process," the letter said.
IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh is contesting the election against Abhay Singh Chautala for the president's post while tainted sports administrator Lalit Bhanot is contesting the post of Secretary General against Volleyball Federation of India Secretary General K Murugan and Judo Federation of India General Secretary Mukesh Kumar.