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Deepak Sharma banned from football activities by AIFF

Published at :July 10, 2024 at 5:48 PM
Modified at :July 10, 2024 at 5:48 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF media)

Rutvij Joshi

Deepak Sharma was accused of physical assault earlier.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) Disciplinary Committee has announced its verdict concerning the allegations against Deepak Sharma, an executive committee member from the Himachal Pradesh Football Association. Sharma faced severe accusations from young female footballers who claimed he barged into their rooms at night during their Indian Women’s League (IWL) 2 campaign in Goa. 

According to the players, Sharma physically assaulted them under the influence of alcohol. Following a thorough investigation, the committee announced its decision on July 10, 2024. A copy of the decision made by the four-member Disciplinary Committee is in the possession of Khel Now.

Series of events & subsequent charges laid on Deepak Sharma

The controversy began on March 28, 2024, when players from Khad FC, alleged that Sharma entered their accommodation in an intoxicated state and physically assaulted them. Additionally, it was claimed that Sharma made inappropriate comments towards the players. 

Another separate accusation was made by Ruturaj Salunkhe, the team’s goalkeeping coach, alleging that he was coerced into sponsoring both his team and Sharma’s team under pretenses.

On April 9, 2024, a Charge Notice under Article 51 of the AIFF Disciplinary Code, 2023, was issued to Sharma, encompassing the following charges and he was asked to put forward his submissions on the charges laid:

1. Traveling with the club players without being on official duty and making decisions while inebriated.

2. Assaulting two female players and failing to maintain appropriate behaviour.

3. Defrauding a club/team on false promises and receiving funding for his team.

Committee’s investigation & findings

The AIFF Disciplinary Committee undertook a meticulous investigation, examining all complaints, responses and evidence. Multiple witnesses were interrogated, including Sandeep Saini, the university coach for the complainants and Renu Bala, the women’s coach traveling with the team. Both witnesses provided crucial insights, though their testimonies revealed contradictions, inconsistencies and irregularities, highlighting the chaotic nature of the events.

Saini initially denied any incident but later admitted that Sharma’s wife mentioned on the phone that Sharma attempted to slap a complainant, but was restrained. Bala’s testimony highlighted Sharma’s known propensity for alcohol and indicated that she wouldn’t be surprised by his misbehaviour, although she was unaware of the incident until after it occurred.

“The testimony of Mr. Sandeep Saini revealed a significant admission,” stated the committee. “He initially denied any incident but later conceded that Mr. Sharma’s wife had informed him about an attempted assault by Sharma, which adds weight to the complainant’s allegations.”

Further corroborating the events, the committee noted, “Ms. Renu Bala’s account confirmed Mr. Sharma’s known history of alcohol consumption and misbehaviour, which, while not directly witnessing the event, provided context to the accusations.”

After reviewing the consistent statements from the complainants and the contradictions in the defendant’s witnesses’ testimonies, the committee decided based on the “preponderance of probabilities” test, a standard used in departmental inquiries. This test determines the likelihood of an event occurring rather than requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The committee’s findings included:

(A) Clear, consistent and unambiguous statements from the complainants.

(B) Multiple contradictions and irregularities in the statements from Sharma and his witnesses.

(C) Confirmation from the match commissioner and other sources that Sharma admitted to inappropriate behaviour.

(D) Acknowledgment that Sharma had no official role or designation that justified his presence with the team.

“The testimonies provided by the complainants were clear, consistent and unambiguous, establishing a credible sequence of events,” stated the committee. “On the contrary, the statements from the defendant and his witnesses contained numerous contradictions and irregularities, undermining their credibility.”

Further, the committee noted, “The match commissioner and other sources corroborated the complainants’ accounts, confirming that Mr. Sharma had admitted to inappropriate behaviour on the night in question.”

Given these observations, the committee found Sharma guilty under Article 51 of the AIFF Disciplinary Code, 2023. However, due to insufficient evidence, the charge of defrauding a club/team on false promises was dropped.

End result of findings

In light of these findings, the AIFF Disciplinary Committee has imposed severe consequences on Sharma. The committee’s decision stated: “This Committee has decided to impose a Ban on Defendant Mr. Deepak Sharma on taking part in any football-related activity for a period of four (4) years, starting from the date of his temporary suspension by AIFF”​

Appeal Process

Deepak Sharma now has a three-day window to declare his intention to appeal against the proposed decision and a seven-day period to submit the appeal brief along with the appeal fee.

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