'How Can HC Stay Elections?' : Supreme Court Sets Aside P&H High Court's Stay On Wrestling Federation Of India Elections
In a significant development, the Supreme Court today overturned the stay imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the elections to the Executive Council of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The Court expressed strong reservations about the High Court passing an interim order and staying the elections. It expressed its unequivocal stance that elections should never be...
In a significant development, the Supreme Court today overturned the stay imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the elections to the Executive Council of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The Court expressed strong reservations about the High Court passing an interim order and staying the elections. It expressed its unequivocal stance that elections should never be stayed.
The Court observed “We fail to understand how the entire process of election could have been set at naught by the High Court. The proper course would have been to allow the election to be conducted and make the election subject to the outcome of the pending writ petition. Accordingly, the impugned order granting interim relief is set aside.”
With this decision, the path is now clear for the Wrestling Federation of India to proceed with its Executive Council elections. The Court also emphasized that the election's outcome will be contingent on any subsequent orders passed in the pending writ petition before P&H HC.
The Court ordered “It’ll be open for the Returning Officer to proceed with the election by publishing a revised election program. We make it clear that the outcome of the election will be subject to orders that may be passed in the writ petition. We've made no adjudication on the merits of the controversy involved in the writ petition. The appeal is allowed in the above terms.”
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal was hearing an SLP filed by the Ad-Hoc Committee, WFI against the interim order passed by P&H HC which had stayed the election of Wrestling Federation of India.
The Ad-Hoc Committee(petitioner), WFI is responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the WFI due to the expiration of its Executive Council term and various controversies involving WFI officials.
In the present case, the returning Officer(RO) notified the elections and their schedule on June 13, 2023, with the actual polling set for July 6, 2023. However, the RO facing challenges in determining the genuine state association affiliated to the WFI from Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, sought additional time.
Meanwhile, the Assam Wrestling Association approached the Guwahati High Court, securing an ex-parte order to halt the elections. The Supreme Court, on July 18, 2023, granted a stay on the Guwahati High Court's order dated June 25, 2023.
Subsequently, the RO rescheduled the elections for the Executive Committee to August 12, 2023. Then, on 25th July 2023, he passed a detailed order in the matter of the formation of the Electoral College in Haryana State. The Haryana Wrestling Association(Respondent No.1) moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court which issued an interim order staying the Returning Officer's decision from May 25, 2023.
Aggrieved by this order, which stayed the Executive Council elections just one day before their scheduled date on August 12, 2023, the petitioner filed an SLP before the Supreme Court.
At the outset, Justice Oka questioned the necessity of staying the election, asking, “How could the election be stayed? Subsequently, it could be challenged. We’ve strong reservations about HC passing an interim order and staying the elections?”
The counsel representing the Haryana Wrestling Association brought to the attention of the court the allegations of a forged letter, challenging the legitimacy of the affiliation of respondent 5 (Haryana Amateur Wrestling Federation).
He replied, “We say I am the real body. Respondent 5 herein produces a forged letter from the Haryana Olympic Association. On the basis of that forged letter, my objection before RO was rejected, and he was made part of the Electoral College. Now, the order of RO is based on the forged letter, I challenged before the HC. Now, the Haryana Olympic Association has filed a reply before the HC that the letter on the basis of which respondent 5 was taken into the electoral college was a forged letter.
Justice Oka, still unconvinced, asked, “Where is the question of staying the election?”
The counsel submitted: “Now the Haryana association has said that there was a forged letter. Before issuing a fresh election schedule, that objection may be considered deciding on merits…
Justice Oka: “We’ll not pass any observations. The moment we make an observation, it will lead to more petitions.”
On a lighter vein, he concluded that “we don't want to pass any observations here because we’re afraid of the wrestlers.”
Case title: Ad Hoc Committee Wrestling Federation Of India v Haryana Wrestling Association And Ors
Citation: SLP(C) No. 22728-22730/2023
Sr Adv. Mr. Gurukrishna Kumar, Adv Mr. Vikas Singh and Awantika Manohar, AoR for the petitioner