Seven Tamil Nadu FA members sentenced to four days of detention in civil prison

The High Court found seven members of the Tamil Nadu Football Association guilty of having wilfully disobeyed court orders against the conduct of a Congress.

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The Madras High Court has sentenced seven members of Tamil Nadu Football Association (TFA) to four days of detention in a civil prison for having wilfully disobeyed an order passed by the court on February 8 directing them to desist from convening its 83rd Annual Ordinary Congress at Thanjavur on February 9.

Justice R. Subramanian came down heavily on J. Jesiah Villavarayar, the former president, and six others who had got elected as the new office bearers in the unauthorised Congress held on February 9, for not only disobeying the court order but also making false claims of not having known about the order before participating in the Congress.

He pointed out that the order had been published prominently in the sports page of the Tiruchi edition of The Hindu newspaper on February 9 and that it had also been communicated to the contemnors through WhatsApp on February 8 as well as on February 9. Yet, they had chosen to hold the Congress and get themselves elected as office-bearers.

According to Krishnagiri District Football Association (KDFA) and Pennar Junior Football Club (PJFC), which had preferred the contempt plea, a WhatsApp message regarding the injunction granted by the court was sent to the first contemnor Villavarayar at around 10 am on February 9 and he had read that message within a few minutes.

However, to wriggle out of contempt proceedings, Villavarayar claimed that phones were not allowed inside the hall where the Congress was held and so he had surrendered his phone at 9.30 am itself. But the judge refused to believe his statement since photographs shot at the venue showed that all members on the dais had mobile phones in their shirt pockets.

He also rejected the contemnor’s claim that the photographs, produced by the petitioners before the court, were not taken at the Congress held on February 9 and that they had been shot elsewhere. He pointed out that the backdrop of the dais clearly showed that the photos had been shot only at the Congress held in violation of court orders.

The judge also set aside all decisions taken at the Congress and appointed retired High Court judge A.K. Rajan as an interim Administrator to solve the differences between different district level football associations and to conduct the Annual Ordinary Congress for election of new office-bearers to TFA.

He further said, the order for detaining the seven members in civil prison shall be kept in abeyance for 30 days to enable the contemnors to take the matter on appeal to a Division Bench.

Initially, Pennar Senior Football Club, Intermillan FC, Krishnagiri Town FC, St. Antony’s FC, Dynamo FC, Trinity FC, Hosur Town FC, Maharishi Vidya Mandir FC, MGR College FC, PJFC and KDFC had filed a joint civil suit before the High Court and obtained an interim injunction restraining TNFA from convening the Congress.

In an affidavit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs, C. Sasikumar, secretary of KDFC, said TFA was a registered body under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act of 1975 which prescribes that the term of office of the members of any society registered under it must not exceed a period of three years from the date of election.

However, contrary to the statutory requirement, TFA had framed bylaws providing for its office-bearers to remain in office for a period of four years from the date of the congress (annual general body meeting). The previous president Villavarayar, treasurer A. Kannan and five vice-presidents had assumed charge during the September 2014 congress.

As per the 1975 Act, their term had expired on September 20, 2017 and even as per the by laws their tenure had come to an end in September 2018. Yet, the office bearers were refusing to conduct elections and want to continue in office through “illegal acts” such as amending the bylaws and expelling the members, the plaintiffs alleged.

Apprehending that the newly elected office-bearers of KDFC would not be allowed to participate in the TFA congress scheduled on Saturday and vote in the elections, the plaintiffs had sought to restrain the conduct of the congress.

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