The AIFF Appeals Committee has lifted the ban put on Minerva Punjab FC founding director Ranjit Bajaj by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee under Article 23 of the AIFF Disciplinary Code on May 13, 2018.
He was given a one year ban and Rs 1 million (10 lakhs) fine by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee for allegedly racially abusing a referee during a match of the U-18 Youth League.
The matter was appealed by Minerva Punjab FC and Ranjit Bajaj who vehemently denied any allegations of racial abuse. The case was heard by the AIFF Appeals Committee on July 25. Minerva Punjab FC Counsel Amitabh Tewari argued that the decision had been passed in total violation of natural justice and that due processes as per the disciplinary code had not been followed in passing the order. Mr. Bajaj was given no opportunity to defend himself and was not heard by the committee before passing the impugned order.
With the I-League season fast approaching and AFC Champions League preparations in high gear, Minerva Punjab FC were eagerly awaiting the decision for the past two months.
The AIFF Appeals Committee finally released their verdict today and quashed the orders passed by the disciplinary committee against Ranjit Bajaj.
The committee observed in its judgement “Considering that the charges levelled are of such serious nature, and if proved would invite serious consequences, the committee believes that a chance of hearing could have been given. The committee is also mindful of concerns raised regarding the impugned order being contrary to the provisions of Article 116 of the Disciplinary Code.”
The Appeals Committee, AIFF’s highest independent committee also observed that the whole Disciplinary code is archaic and bad and itself prevents efficient decision making by AIFF’s judicial bodies. The committee advised the AIFF to “update and revise the disciplinary code in order to bring it at par with global best practices”.
Without getting into the merits of the case, the appeals committee quashed the orders of the disciplinary committee and referred the matter back to be heard afresh. The appeals committee also said, “it is purely to ensure absolute adherence to the provisions of the applicable disciplinary code given the serious nature of the matter”.
As such the ban and fine imposed on Ranjit Bajaj stands cancelled.
Henna Singh Bajaj, director and co-owner of Minerva Punjab FC said, “We were always confident that the Appeals committee would overturn the ridiculous orders passed by the disciplinary committee. Ranjit is Minerva and Minerva is Ranjit, he has been serving his ban for the last five months, and now we find out that the whole order was bad! If the disciplinary committee holds clubs to such high and stringent standards then their own functioning should be faultless.”