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LAHORE: The Supreme Court has declared the elections of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) held in 2012 as legal, while setting aside a judgment of the Lahore High Court (LHC) against those elections.

With the decision announced by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, the near seven-year legal dispute had come to a close.

The legal battle against the said elections greatly damaged the cause of sports in the country as the POA split into two factions with one headed by the federal government and the second by the POA, which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Pakistan was also on the brink of being suspended by the IOC, after the government refused to recognise retired Lt Gen Arif Hasan’s body as legal. The government had reviewed its stance since the IOC has accepted the results and threatened to suspend Pakistan’s membership.

In its judgment, the bench obser­v­ed: “Before parting it is found pertinent to mention that indeed, the promotion of sports in Pakistan holds paramount importance and the participation of athletes in international sports events is a matter of immense pride and prestige for the entire nation, however, in the tide of such emotions we and not lose sight of the fact that a body which is operating independently and is admittedly not being substantially controlled by either the federal or provincial government or any other governmental body and considering the fact that the instant matter does not involve a violation of any of the fundamental rights, the international functions of the association cannot, in the facts and circumstances, be subjected to judicial review under Article 199 of the Constitution.

“Therefore, it is held that the decision of the learned High Court in holding a writ to be maintainable against the Association was erroneous and cannot be sustained.”

The bench further says: “For the fore­going reasons, the instant app­eals are allowed and the impugned judgment is set aside. As the main appeals stand decided, the review petitions, civil petitions and miscellaneous applications have lost their relevance and are all disposed of accordingly. For the redress of any grievances with regards to the international functioning of the Association including its elections, the aggrieved may, if so advised, approach the courts of plenary jurisdiction to seek the appropriate remedy as provided under the law.”

It may be mentioned here that the elections were held for a term of four years. But after incumbent Arif Hasan was elected as president, defeating rival candidate Akram Sahi in a secret ballot, the elections for all other seats were conducted through the method of show of hands.

A petition was then filed in the Lahore High Court by the rival group who pleaded the show of hands’ method is against the POA’s constitution. The LHC declared the elections null and void in a decision that was challenged by the POA sitting body in the Supreme Court.

The apex court in its interim order given in 2014 — two years after the elections — asked he sitting body to again re-hold elections for all posts, barring that of president. The order was honoured the same year but another writ was filed against the interim order of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019

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