CURRENT CHAMPIONS OF INDIA, Minerva Punjab FC, have chosen a direct path of confrontation with the All India Football Federation by filing a criminal defamation lawsuit against the football body.
On 13th May 2018, AIFF Disciplinary Committee had suspended Mr Ranjit Bajaj, owner of MPFC, for allegedly abusing a referee using racist language during an U-18 Youth League match in Shillong. Bajaj had claimed a conspiracy to malign him, and promised to pursue this matter legally.
On 30th May the club filed a civil defamation suit against the AIFF at a court in Chandigarh. That lawsuit sought damages of Rs 1 crore. This fresh lawsuit, also in Chandigarh, names AIFF Disciplinary Committee member UN Banerjee and several other AIFF officials. The suit is pending till 20th July 2018.
In a press release, club director and Mr Ranjit Bajaj's wife Mrs Henna Singh said,
“We have not taken the grave accusations levelled against club owner and director Mr. Ranjit Bajaj lightly. The language used by the Disciplinary Committee Chairman Mr. U N Bannerjee and others in the order passed against Mr. Bajaj dated 30.05.2018 is sensational and defamatory, without any real merit or proof. I am sure that any Judge will be able to recognise the motive to malign us, we have faith in the judicial system and are confident that in the end the truth will triumph.”
These are not the only times that MPFC have taken AIFF to court. Last year, a different incident had seen Ranjit Bajaj being banned from stadiums for several matches. He had filed a lawsuit against AIFF that led to a subsequent lawsuit which accused AIFF General Secretary Mr Kushal Das of contempt of court.
With Minerva Punjab FC holding the crown of top division league champions and set to be the sole Indian club participating in the AFC Champions League Qualifiers in early 2019, the club remains a crucial entity for Indian football going into the next season. It will be interesting to see how AIFF chooses to respond to this.