GOPIO Sydney’s sham AGM and cover-up by GOPIO leaders

By Ashok Kumar

Sydney, 24 December, 2016

GOPIO Sydney, has along with GOPIO International leaders, betrayed the Indian Australian Community  yet again by not respecting their own Constitution.

Balvinder Ruby
Balvinder Ruby

GOPIO Sydney flouted its own Constitution at the 31 January, 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) by not meeting quorum requirements and allowing proxy votes to elect EC and its president Mr. Balvinder Ruby.

The IST, upon receiving information in March, asked present and past leaders as well as GOPIO International leaders through emails to explain this misconduct. Most of them either ignored the emails or gave irrelevant answers.

Instead of taking a punitive action, which it has powers to, in a shameful cover up, GOPIO International leaders reportedly allowed rebirth of the same illegal EC at the 12 November hush-hush meeting.

The IST sought details of this November meeting but  their stoic silence confirms The IST’s cover up charge.

As per the the Constitution of GOPIO International, available on their website, vide page 10 and article 15  under heading IMPEACHMENT: The officials of the GOPIO can be impeached by the International Council for misdemeanor and for gross and willful violation of GOPIO constitution. Impeachment proceedings can be initiated by the Executive Council or at least five members of the International Council The office-bearer concerned will be provided a written statement of the charges against him/her and given thirty days to reply to the charges. The impeachment charges and replies from the person charged will be circulated to all members of the International Council at least 30 days before the meeting of the International Council at which they are to be discussed. Impeachment decision can be made only with the three/fourth (3/4) majority of the International Council present and voting in a meeting with prior notice concerning this agenda item. 

But this was not done, it instead, called a meeting to allow the tarnished EC to resurrect itself. It was like “converting” black money to white.

However, The IST recently,stumbled upon another information about the November meeting that elected the same tainted leaders from the previous AGM of 31 January. Aware of the misconduct, some EC members reportedly “sought” fresh election. Though the GOPIO International has the powers to expel the previous EC members from GOPIO, Sydney as mentioned above, on grounds of misconduct, as has been done before but its leaders chose to shield this EC.

The Indian Sub-continent Times (IST) had asked for answers from Mr. Noel Lal, Executive Vice President of GOPIO International and others in the loop about the cover-up and the resultant fresh election. The questions were as follows:

  1. I was asking you and others about 31 January AGM. How is that related to November meeting of GOPIO Sydney?
  2. If a new election did indeed take place in November, did that mean GOPIO Sydney constitution was violated in 31 January AGM and new election was ordered by GOPIO higher ups? Did GOPIO global leaders sack the GOPIO Sydney EC “elected” on 31 January?
  3. Why did GOPIO Sydney need a fresh election in November, if there was nothing wrong 9 months earlier in January AGM?
  4. Before new team is elected, the old team (so-called elected in 31 January AGM) must be dismissed by a proper mechanism. Then only the fresh election can be held. Did GOPIO Sydney do any such thing, and if so, what was the mechanism to dissolve the EC  “elected” on 31 January, 2016?
  5. If fraud was committed in 31 January AGM, then how come the same team is elected in November 2016 under the patronage of senior GOPIO leaders? Is this not a cover-up?
  6. Can you please send me a copy of the notice and the minutes of the new election? And who was the returning officer for the new election?

    GOPIO International leaders’ absence of any response to the series of e mails and questions shows their lack of leadership qualities, the community is looking for in them.Their silence, legitimises the frauds committed by the January EC.

    The new evidence surfaced before The IST points to the appointment of a Returning Officer, who was oblivious of the irregularities committed during the January AGM and, therefore, could not object to the nominations of tainted members.
     Timeline: GOPIO, Sydney elected its new Executive Committee and President, Mr Balvinder Ruby, at the AGM of 31 January, 2016 willfully flouting its own constitution. This body was deemed ‘illegal’ for the following reasons:
  1.  Nominations for the office-bearer positions were supposed to be sought on a prescribed format, but it was not done.
  2. Returning Officer was supposed to be appointed to conduct election, but it was not done.
  3. As per the constitution, proxy vote is not allowed but in GOPIO Sydney AGM/election, it was permitted.
  4. The quorum for AGM is 50% + 1 members, who must be present in the AGM, but it was not met in this AGM. Mr Balvinder Ruby is quoted in the AGM minutes: “Balvinder Ruby has advised that AGM has quorum members available today in person and via authorised proxy to vote for executive/management positions”.  This is wrong and in breach of GOPIO Sydney constitution.
  5. Previous Public Officer can be removed by a proper resolution in the AGM, which was not done. Instead Balvinder Ruby appointed himself as the new Public Officer. Mr Ruby is quoted in the AGM minutes as “Balvinder Ruby to communicate with Fair Trading and nominate himself as person  responsible as Public Relation Officer.”

It appears that Mr.Balvinder Ruby and the rest of the executive committee were holding positions in contravention of the GOPIO Sydney Constitution, and also in breach of Fair Trading rules and regulations. Yet, the EC was allowed to function without any punitive action.

Mr Ruby is yet to respond to the queries. Similarly, none of the current GOPIO Sydney EC members, with the exception of Mrs. Madhvi Mohindra, has seen it fit to respond about the validity of their own election.  Mrs. Mohindra informed that she had resigned from GOPIO Sydney. Mr. Sukhwinder Rajput and Mr. Rajat Midha, who were in the executive committee before the current committee, did not think it to be proper or necessary to respond on a matter which goes to the core of the community leadership. It is ironic that they are often seen at various functions as community leaders, the latest example being Mr Rajput’s presence in the high profile farewell of High Commissioner, Navedeep Suri, recently.

Oceania Head of GOPIO International, Mrs. Suman Kapoor, did not give any definitive response nor take a decisive stand even though she has the powers to demand and ensure proper governance in GOPIO Sydney. Instead of feeling concerned about the illegality and improper governance perpetrated in GOPIO Sydney, which tarnishes the image of GOPIO as a brand, she kept telling The IST not to send further communications to her.  This raises serious questions about her understanding of the concepts of accountability, transparency and leadership. She also brought the following leaders in the loop: Dr. Thomas current Chairman & Mr. Niraj Baxi International President, Harry Walia ( Past Constitutional committee head), Umesh Chandra (Past Oceania GOPIO head) and Jagdish Lodhia ( Current official from Australia) to bring this matter into their knowledge, but no response ever came from most of them, the only exception being Mr. Umesh Chandra.

Mr. Umesh Chandra, was straight forward to say that there appears to be a “violation of Constitution” in the AGM and election of new Executive Committee of GOPIO Sydney.  He felt that it should be checked whether GOPIO Sydney Constitution was amended before AGM and Department of Fair Trading (DFT) informed accordingly. The IST has information from various sources that the Constitution had not been amended before the AGM of 31 January, 2016. Not only that, GOPIO Sydney constitution has not been amended right up to  30 June 2016 when many members allowed their membership to lapse. Mr Bhupinder Chhibber, the immediate Past President of GOPIO Sydney, confirmed that no amendment of constitution took place up to 30 June, 2016.

Mr. Noel Lal, current Executive Vice President of GOPIO International in his email vouched to speak to Mr. Balvinder Ruby, but despite more than a week, no response came from him. Then suddenly, he wrote that he has seen the minutes of some “November” meeting and every thing was in order. My emails queries since March 2016 were about January 31 AGM, but suddenly Mr Loel Lal started talking about November 2016 meeting. Other senior GOPIO International leaders are yet to respond or take a concrete action in this matter.

The IST has a copy of the Constitution of GOPIO Sydney and minutes of its AGM held on 31 January, 2016, both were e-mailed to all members in the loop.

Relevant excerpts from the Constitution:

ARTICLE X

VOTING AND ELECTIONS

  1. Only fully paid members are eligible to vote and contest elections with 50% plus 1 quorum of voters.

  2. All members have 1 vote in person at elections.

  3. Nominations for candidates for the executive committee will only be valid when signed by two current members and submitted 7 days prior to annual general meeting to the appointed Returning Officer (Immediate Reporting Official).

  4. Method of voting is to be decided on the day of elections by the Returning Officer. In case nomination(s) are not received, the Returning Officer shall fill the positions from the floor.

  5. Postal and Proxy votes are not permitted.

ARTICLE XI

QUORUMS

  1. A quorum at any annual general meeting will consist of 50% plus 1 of the members entitled to vote.

Replies from GOPIO leaders:

______________________________________________________

Mrs. Suman Kapoor’s reply:

Suman Kapoor
Suman Kapoor

It is worthy to mention that the matter happened when I was not in positions to comment or act in any direction. It is not washing off the hands but very responsibly giving my  volunteer hours , money & energy to contact both the parties and listening their side of story across the shores as soon as your mail was received. Just like you, I collected the data as presented and presented to my colleagues ( like Noel).

Thank you for having faith in me and I assure you that this matter will be taken up in Executive council & a joint decision by chair will be forwarded regarding your query.Dr. Thomas current Chairman & Mr. Niraj Baxi International President, Harry Walia ( Past Constitutional committee head), Jagdish Lodhia ( Current official from Australia) have been included in this mail for their input. A joint statement will be given to you in due course of time. Meanwhile Umesh Chandra ( Past International Coordinator  Oceania) has also been included in the chain of mails as Key person sitting on chair at that point of time when this AGM took place.

She further said “Noel as in charge has been given the task to go ahead with you all. No further communication needed.”

______________________________________________________

Mr. Umesh Chandra’s response

Umesh Chandra
Umesh Chandra

Good afternoon Ashok,
Having reviewed the Constitution and the attached minutes , there appears to be a  violation of the constitution.  All GOPIO chapters have adopted their own Constitutions and are obliged to operate under the constitution and Bylaws. Voting right and or any other condition of the Constitution can be amended following due process.  It may be advisable to check if any such amendments were passed and registered with NSW office of Fair Trading.

______________________________________________________

Mr. Bhupinder Chibber’s clarification:

Bhupinder Chibber
Bhupinder Chibber

Not sure, why I am in the loop as I am not GOPIO Sydney member. However, I can confirm that I was GOPIO Sydney member till 30th June 2016 and to the best of my knowledge, there was no amendment in the Constitution till 30th June 2016. I never received any communication from GOPIO Sydney EC if there were any amendments. However, I feel that it is not the responsibility of ex-members to provide update but it is the responsibility of current EC members to respond as they have first hand information. That way, it will save time for senior management of GOPIO International.

I conclude my email (hopefully first & last). I feel that it is not for International management to respond first or to respond on behalf of GOPIO Sydney executive members but GOPIO Sydney EC team or its President, should shed a light and answer all queries. If someone feel that he/she is right, then he/she should stand up & respond.

_________________________________________________

Noel Lal
Noel Lal

Mr. Noel Lal’s replies: In April 2016. “I have escalated this to Executive Council. Will revert after investigation.”

In May, 2016. “This falls under the Chapter validation committee and is being referred to them.

In Dec, 2016. “We have discussed this issue at EC meeting.  I’ll be talking to Ruby and getting back to you.”

He has still not replied to the fresh set of questions mentioned above.

___________________________________________________

GOPIO Sydney (Incorporation number INC 9889244) , registered with NSW Department of Fair Trading, and has elected to have its own Constitution. The GOPIO Sydney Constitution says that 50%+1 members are required for AGM to conduct its business.  But at the AGM on 31 January, out of 25 members, only 8 were present. Nine proxies were obtained but proxy is not allowed by the GOPIO Sydney Constitution. The AGM is therefore deemed illegal as per their own Constitution.  If AGM was illegal because it violated GOPIO Sydney constitution, then the proceedings and election at this so-called AGM are also illegal. This calls for expulsion of these tainted members who were re-instated in a dubious fashion.

The fresh election notwithstanding,  these leaders would remain tainted and this raises a serious question over their attempt to project and present themselves as community leaders and holding any events like GYAAN, accepting sponsorship and spending that money.  Many past GOPIO Sydney members, on the condition of anonymity contended that any awards by a tainted GOPIO Sydney EC will be tainted too.

It is incumbent upon GOPIO International leadership to follow the Constitution and expel the tainted EC and constitute a new EC with new members.

The Indian Australian Community remains concerned over the kind of leadership it will have to endure.

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Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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