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Relief for duo as charges dropped

- Prosecution fails to produce evidence

Glasgow/New Delhi: The Indian Olympic Association secretary-general Rajiv Mehta and wrestling referee Virender Singh Malik, who were arrested on different reasons, were on Monday released after charges against them were dropped for lack of evidence.

The charges against both the Indian officials were dropped after the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence against the duo in the Glasgow Magistrate’s Court.

“Both Rajiv Mehta and Virender Singh Malik have been liberated as the prosecution did not press the cases against them owing to lack of evidence,” a spokeswoman of the Glasgow Magistrate’s Court said.

Chef de Mission Raj Singh confirmed: “There was not enough evidence against the two officials.”

Mehta was arrested for alleged drunken driving, while Malik, who is not a part of the official contingent, was facing a more serious charge of alleged sexual assault.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), who had suspended Malik earlier in the day, though is determined to initiate its own investigation before giving the senior referee a clean chit.

“We are happy that he has been released. But we need to do some investigations from our side and would ask coaches and other wrestling officials about what exactly had happened in Glasgow. Once we are convinced that Malik is innocent the suspension will be lifted,” a senior WFI official said.

The decision to let off the two officials came as huge relief for the Indian contingent, which had to face a lot of embarrassment on the last day of the Commonwealth Games.

The duo was, however, not staying with the official 215-strong contingent which was putting up at the Games Village. Both of them were reportedly lodged at a local hotel.

The consulate in Edinburgh had deputed an official to Glasgow to keep in close touch with the police authorities to ascertain full factual details of the case. A relieved Mehta later said that the entire case was “represented in a wrong manner as he wasn’t driving in a drunken state”.

“The facts have been misrepresented and I have been projected in a wrong manner. I was not drunk and my test reports (alcohol intake) have all come negative. There is nothing in it to show that I was in a drunken state. I am thankful to the court that they didn’t accept the evidences put forward,” Mehta said.

Asked about what transpired on Saturday night, Mehta recollected the incident.

“I had come out of a party and was on my way to somewhere else. Then the accident happened but I was not at fault. The other car was coming from the wrong side. That’s why the case didn’t even come up for hearing It was dropped at the prosecution level,” he concluded.

A source in the IOA said Mehta’s functioning left a lot to be desired before the Glasgow Games. “A lot of people were issued letters for visa applications as delegates without properly verifying whether they were deserving candidates.

“The secretary-general has gone to Glasgow with his wife and daughter. A doctor from Uttarakhand was added into the official contingent though no one was sure about his background in sports medicine,” claimed the official.

Mehta, who is also the president of the Kho-Kho Federation of India, is not courting controversy for the first time. In Uttarakhand, there were allegations against him for misusing government funds. He also headed many other sports associations in the state including football but resigned because of the government sports code.

Mehta played a role in winter sports disciplines, too, as he was the president of the Amateur Indian Luge Association. When he stepped down, his wife became the president!

Malik, brother of India’s chief women’s wrestling coach Kuldeep, is considered one of the country’s most experienced referees. Despite the charges being dropped, the Glasgow incident could prove to be a huge blow to Malik’s career. He would also not be allowed to officiate in any competitive match till the WFI suspension is lifted.

Always eager to speak his mind, Mehta caused the IOA huge embarrassment a couple of months ago when he accused his own president, NR Ramachandran, of trying to scuttle India’s chances of hosting the Asian Games.

Meanwhile, two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar said any official who was an ambassador of the nation and should maintain his integrity.

“The officials are the ambassadors of the nation and their good behaviour is important. Whenever we are going out of the country, we should keep our integrity,” said Sushil, who won a gold in 74kg freestyle in Glasgow.