By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) The official reason for countermanding this month’s Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) elections is out: Returning officer Navin B. Chawla says he took the decision because the “entire election process has been polluted beyond redemption and loss caused to the sanctity of this process is irreparable”.
Chawla, who sought and received advice from DDCA Ombudsman Justice (Retired) Deepak Verma on going ahead with the elections, has directly blamed DDCA secretary Vinod Tihara and said that “free and fair elections with transparency” were impossible, “certainly not under your secretaryship”.
Chawla, a former Chief Election Commissioner of India, has given these reasons for countermanding the elections for six posts, and slated for October 17-20, in a detailed letter to Tihara.
According to Chawla’s email to Tihara, Justice Verma told him: “Looking at the current scenario and the mess that has been created in the entire election process, it would be fair to say that the entire election process has been polluted beyond redemption and loss caused to the sanctity of this process is irreparable. I personally feel that certain urgent and appropriate action needs to be taken. Since the entire process has been polluted by certain person(s) associated with DDCA, I believe we should countermand the whole election process as the secretary, despite repeated reminders, has not withdrawn the corrigendum dated 07.10.2020 and initiate a de novo process with no interference from anyone.”
Chawla then says he “considered the matter” in its entirety. “It goes without saying that all elections must be free, fair and transparently so. In the present case, for the reasons already brought out in the letters of Mr Sanjay Bhardwaj [DDCA Director-Cricket] and the Hon’ble Ombudsman with which I totally agree, I am satisfied that the election process has been vitiated and in these vitiated circumstances, it is not possible to go ahead and conduct free and fair elections with the transparency they deserve, and certainly not under your secretaryship,” he wrote in his letter to Tihara.
“It was in view of the above that I found myself left with no alternative but to decide to countermand the elections. I, accordingly, directed that the process be halted forthwith. Further course of action may be decided by the Ombudsman and DDCA,” he further wrote.
Tihara did not respond to calls, and email and text messages over the last three days.
According to Chawla’s letter to the DDCA Ombudsman, the bone of contention is Tihara’s tinkering with the agenda, and issuing a corrigendum to the agenda, deleting the fourth item – for the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the DDCA slated for October 17.
The fourth item relates to the removal of Rajan Manchanda from the position of joint secretary, Director, and from the primary membership of the DDCA after he was allegedly involved in an altercation at the DDCA AGM, held in December, when fisticuffs were also exchanged. The AGM had come to an abrupt end.
That case was seized with the DDCA Ombudsman and Chawla refers to that case in his email to Tihara. A final decision in Manchanda’s case is yet to be pronounced amid his [Manchanda’s] allegation that the Ombudsman had failed to show him the official video recording of the AGM where a fight broke out. A privately recorded short video is, however, in public domain.
Tihara reissued the EGM notice and the agenda, with fourth item removed, despite being told to not do it.
Chawla writes that he had requested Tihara “vide letter dated 30th September 2020, to convene the EGM for the purpose, and the Agenda items for the EGM were also enclosed therein”.
“Prior to that, and following the notification of the election schedule on 28th September, I had received a letter dated 28th September from Mr Justice (Rtd) Deepak Verma, Hon’ble Ombudsman for DDCA, bringing to my notice an order passed by him on 14-05-2020, recommending the removal of Mr Rajan Manchanda from the position of joint secretary, Director and from the primary membership of DDCA, and stating that the matter of his recommendation regarding Mr Manchanda should also be taken up in the EGM,” discloses Chawla.
“He [Ombudsman], therefore, wanted that the said matter may also be included in the agenda for the EGM. Having regard to the view of the Hon’ble Ombudsman, I had issued a supplementary notification on 30th September, including the matter regarding Mr Manchanda as an additional agenda item to be taken up. The relevant extracts from the letter of the Hon’ble Ombudsman were also sent to you, Chawla tells Tihara in this letter.
Chawla claims that Tihara agreed with him and “duly issued” a four-point agenda, including Manchanda’s membership issue, on September 30.
“On 4th October, in the afternoon, a most irregular communication from you, strangely dated 2nd October 2020, was delivered at my residence. I noted that it was neither emailed on the 2nd October nor sent through a verifiable courier on the 2nd October,” Chawla wrote.
“You had mentioned in that communication about a certain decision of ‘Apex Council’ not to take up the agenda item pertaining to Mr Manchanda in the EGM. On that occasion, I had informed you, vide my letter of the same day (04-10-20) that your having duly issued the notice and agenda to the members, there was no case for modifying the agenda items at that stage, and that all agenda items would be taken up,” he said.
Candidates filed nominations for the six DDCA positions – president, treasurer, and four directors — between October 5 and 7. “After completion of scrutiny of nominations on October 8, another communication of yours, circulating a different agenda for the EGM, dropping the matter pertaining to Mr Manchanda, was brought to my notice. Again, vide my letter dated October 8, 2020, you were asked to withdraw the purported revised agenda to avoid confusion. However, you have chosen not to take any action in that behalf,” wrote Chawla in his letter to Tihara.
Chawla says on the morning of October 10, the day of withdrawal of nominations for candidates, he received an e-mail from Sanjay Bhardwaj, conveying that “circulation of repeated and different items” had led to “confusion among the members, and has created a situation polluting the election process”.
“Later this afternoon, I got a letter (on email) from the Hon’ble Ombudsman explaining that the situation arising out of confusing agenda items circulated by the secretary has polluted the election process beyond redemption,” wrote Chawla.