Ranjit Bajaj, owner and director of Minerva Punjab, was sanctioned with a suspension for 12 months along with a fine of Rs. 10 Lakh by All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Disciplinary Committee for using racist language against a referee. The incident happened during the course of an Under-18 Youth League Play-Off Match between Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab FC at the JLN Stadium, Shillong.
Bajaj turned to the AIFF's Appeals Committee, challenging the judgment, while vehemently denying any allegations of racial abuse. The verdict of the aforementioned committee has directed the Disciplinary Committee to hear the case afresh, much to the relief of Bajaj.
The main ground for the challenge was that there was a violation of principles of natural justice as no oral hearing or opportunity to present any evidence or witnesses was given to Bajaj before meting out the punishment.
Therefore the Appeals Committee in its order directed "the Disciplinary Committee to consider the matter afresh, as per the procedure specified in the AIFF Disciplinary Code, and if deemed fit by the Disciplinary Committee, the Disciplinary Committee may provide a personal hearing to the Appellants in this regard with a prior notice of hearing at least one week in advance."
It also advised the AIFF to update and revise the Disciplinary Code in order to bring it at par with global best practices and other sporting dispute related documents to enable more efficient decision making by the judicial bodies.
Ms. 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.”
Now that the Appeals Committee has overturned the ban and scrapped the previous order the Disciplinary Committee will review the case once again after giving Mr. Bajaj an opportunity to defend himself.