NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared Indian Chess Federation (AICF) Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan to continue until August 15 in view of the Chess Olympiad to be held in Chennai from July 27.
“For us, the image of the nation is first,” said Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, pausing the bitter legal dispute over the federation’s elections that reached the Supreme Court. On June 2, the Delhi High Court told Chauhan not to continue as federation secretary on a petition from rival candidate Ravindra Dongre.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Bharat Singh Chauhan can continue until August 15 as an interim arrangement for the 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad which has been moved out of the Russian capital Moscow due to the invasion of Ukraine. The federation’s bid to host the prestigious 15-day event in Chennai has been accepted by the International Chess Federation. Other events that have been moved outside of Russia are the first Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities and the 93rd FIDE Congress.
Ravindra Dongre had contested the election on the grounds that Chauhan did not enjoy a two-thirds majority of the 64 votes polled when he was elected in January 2021.
“As it is reported that the nation is holding a prestigious Chess Olympiad from July 27th to August 10th and this is not affected in any way, we direct the Appellant (Chauhan) to continue as Secretary of the AICF until August 15 on an interim arrangement only,” the high court ruled.
The bench noted that the event was to be opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Wednesday’s order comes as a huge relief to Chauhan who is the Olympiad’s tournament director.
Lead attorney Maninder Singh, representing Chauhan, told the court it was unfair for a duly elected secretary to be removed without being heard. Singh said Chauhan’s election conducted under the supervision of a former High Court Justice, Justice K Kannan (ret’d) was approved by the Center in January last year. Singh added that a single judge of the Delhi High Court declined to suspend the elections on May 17, but the divisional bench passed the suspension order.
The petition was challenged by Dongre – the petitioner in the high court. Lawyer Manish Kaushik, who appeared for Dongre, said: “This man (Chauhan) has hijacked the institution and is reeling from illegal tenders issued during his tenure of over a year. An event like the Olympics without this man with a dubious track record will be better organized.
The bench disagreed with this view. He pointed out that the High Court had made no remarks about his past and that the only reason the election had been suspended was the two-thirds majority rule. “You may be right that one person does not run the institution. However, when an international event is organized, as an elected official, his participation is required.
Chauhan’s petition to the Supreme Court said it was India’s first time hosting the Chess Olympiad in Chennai and would see the participation of 339 teams (1,695 players) from 188 countries. Singh told the court that a suit challenging the AICF election was pending in the Madras High Court and the Delhi High Court was still considering Dongre’s petition.
“The series of petitions against the AICF and the petitioner here is nothing but a well-planned attempt by the defendant (Dongre) to thwart and prevent the AICF from staging the Olympiad,” the petition reads. He further said that Dongre had in the past complained to the Center against Chauhan’s election. When the same was referred to the AICF through a communication issued in October 2021, the AICF informed the Center that Dongre was not eligible to apply for the post of Secretary as he was neither a member of an association State/UT Chess Association nor an elected member of any of the Member State/UT Chess Associations.
In the AICF elections held in January last year, Chauhan received 35 votes out of a total of 64 votes polled. His rival Dongre maintained that Chauhan needed two-thirds of the vote (44 votes) according to the National Sports Code.