Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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Upholding Fair Play: From Hockey India to other sports bodies, Delhi HC lays down the law

New Delhi, June 26, 2022- “Sports is a celebration of fair play and there can be no clandestine ways to win,” the Delhi High Court had observed recently while dealing with a plea against the appointment of Narinder Batra and Elena Norman as Life Member and CEO, respectively, of Hockey India (HI).

In the latest development, the high court on Friday ordered Batra to step down as the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) following the removal of his his ‘lifetime member’ post.

Now Batra’s membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also come to an end as the coveted position is linked to his IOA presidency. He was made an IOC member in 2019.

On April 6, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had initiated a preliminary inquiry against Batra for alleged misappropriation of public funds of Rs 35 lakh of Hockey India for personal use.

After the Delhi High Court order, Anil Khanna, the senior-most vice president of the body, will be the new acting president of IOA.

Prior to that, the court had held that Hockey India has violated the National Sports Code and constituted a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run its day-to-day affairs.

The plea filed by former hockey player Aslam Sher Khan — who was a part of the World Cup winning India team of 1975 — has sought to quash certain articles of the Hockey India MOA whereby the posts of ‘Life Member’, ‘CEO’ and ‘Life President’ have been created, in blatant contravention of the NSCI, Circular 1975 and 2001 Guidelines.

Invoking the objective of the Sports Code, the bench of Justices Najmi Waziri and Swarna Kanta Sharma had said: “Sports development is a national priority, as it promotes an active lifestyle, child and youth development, social inclusiveness, employment opportunities, peace and development, and above all a sense of belongingness and national pride.”

“This smacks of brazen impertinence to the clear mandate of law. It was a less than honest but futile endeavour to institutionalise oneself in a body whose legitimacy itself is contingent upon conformity with the Sports Code and the law. What a paradox, to make oneself permanent in an entity whose tenure itself is impermanent,” the court said.

In the order, the bench said the CoA would be at liberty to take the assistance of the respondent on the holding of tournaments, selection of players, and all other matters necessary for the proper governance of the sports body.

The turn of events was not confined to the IOA, as the high court had also pulled up the National Sports Federations (NSFs) with regard to non-compliance with the National Sports Code.

The court had directed the Centre not to resume financial and other support to the NSFs till they comply with National Sports Code, and judicial orders.

However, the bench of Justices Najmi Waziri and Vikas Mahajan asked the government to ensure assistance provided to sportspersons through the Sports Authority of India whenever it is necessary.

Granting them a month for compliance, the bench said that the non-compliant NSFs will have suspension of their recognition.

The high court had also directed the sports secretary in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to ensure complete compliance with the National Sports Code and derecognise those NSFs which are in violation of the same.

The bench was dealing with a plea moved by advocate Rahul Mehra, who sought compliance by NSFs with the Sports Code and the orders passed by the courts. (Agency)

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