16 Aug 2022 1:30 PM GMT
Observing that the legal regime apropos sports administration in India has to be implemented fully and effectively, the Delhi High Court has put the affairs of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as per a recent Supreme Court order. A division bench comprising of Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Manmohan concluded that if a sports federation...
Observing that the legal regime apropos sports administration in India has to be implemented fully and effectively, the Delhi High Court has put the affairs of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as per a recent Supreme Court order.
A division bench comprising of Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Manmohan concluded that if a sports federation does not comply with the law of the land, it will receive no recognition from the Government, thereby adding that the benefits and facilities to it will stop promptly.
"It is better that a legitimate body represents the cause of sportspersons than one simply masquerading as the real champion of Indian sports. Fairness and legitimacy needs to imbue all public affairs. Recalcitrant entities which defy adherence to rules of the game, while continuing to unjustly enjoy government‟s largesse and patronage, must be called-out," the Court added.
The Court relied on the recent Supreme Court order in All India Football Federation vs. Rahul Mehra dated May 18, 2022.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court, in order to facilitate the holding of elections and handing over the affairs to democratically elected body in terms of the Constitution of All India Football Federation which will be adopted, had re-constituted the Committee of Administrators of AIFF. The Top Court also asked the Committee of Administrator to take charge of all the affairs of AIFF immediately
The High Court thus, was also of the opinion that the history of "persistent recalcitrance" of the IOA for almost half a century to comply with the National Sports Code, despite its assurance to the Government, made it imperative that its affairs be put in the hands of the CoA.
Accordingly, the Court appointed the following as the members of CoA:
- Justice Anil R. Dave, former Judge of the Supreme Court.
- Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, IAS, former Chief Election Commissioner.
- Vikas Swarup, IFS, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.
The Court also appointed the following as Consultant Sportspersons:
- Abhinav Bindra (from Uttarakhand) Sport-Shooter, Olympic Gold Medalist.
- Anju Bobby George (from Kerala), Long Jump Olympian.
- Devi Laishram (from Manipur), Archer Olympian.
The development ensued in a 2010 petition filed by Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra seeking strict compliance by the IOA and the National Sports Federations (NSFs) with the Sports Code and judicial dicta regarding it. The plea also sought recognition of defaulting NSFs be suspended or withdrawn, and that the benefits given to such non compliant NSFs be not resumed till the constitution and administration of the IOA or NSF is brought into conformity with the Sports Code.
In this backdrop, the High Court opined that all NSFs complying with the Sports Code and representing Olympic sports, will automatically qualify for IOA membership subject to completion of formalities.
"The logical corollary to the preceding discussion would be that IOA would disqualify itself from retention of its recognition as a sports federation because of non-compliance with the Sports Code and the law of the land. However, for the duration that the COA assists in bringing IOA‟s affairs in order, IOA‟s recognition will not be disturbed," the Court said.
It added "If the compliance is not done by IOA, within the time specified hereinabove, its recognition by the Government shall stand suspended. The urgency for cooperation with the CoA and onus for compliance with the Sports Code is upon the IOA."
Observing that there can be no room for a permanent post in a NSF or the IOA, the Court struck down the post of Life President and any such permanent post for an individual in the IOA as being illegal.
The Court also dealt with the aspect of IOA Constitution, clause 10.1 of which stipulated that NSFs representing sports must have three representatives with a vote to each, which they are entitled to cast in the Annual General Meetings and Special General Meetings of the IOA.
The Court held that voting and election results only in terms of the Sports Code will be recognized and that continuation of the said provisions in the IOA Constitution will disqualify it from recognition by the Government.
"The differential voting rights denotes some entities as being of a lesser value or significance. This principle is per se iniquitous and undemocratic. There cannot be a half voter or a one 1/3rd voter. This anomalous weightage in votes to different entities is neither contemplated in the Sports Code nor in the IOC Charter. Therefore, it is struck down," it held.
The Court also opined that NSFs (including the IOA) have to comply with the Model Election Guidelines and that the IOA Constitution shall also conform to the same "or risk derecognition."
The Court further held that the maximum term for the President and all Office Bearers and members of the Election Commission will be limited to 3 tenures.
Further observing that there is every reason to acknowledge women‟s significant presence in the sporting world, the Court also held that women shall comprise half of the category of sportspersons with voting rights in the General Body as well as in the EC of the IOA.
"Sports administration is not a male preserve. It is a matter of record that in all its 95 years of existence the IOA has never had a woman as its President or Secretary General. Surely women do aspire to be in significant positions in the decision making process. Their presence both in the GB, as well as the EC of the IOA, will lend to fruition of their valid aspirations," the Court said.
The Court also directed that a person who is charge-sheeted in criminal proceedings, which could entail imprisonment of two years, shall cease to be a member of the IOA or NSF.
"Governmental monitoring of compliance is expected to be prompt, robust and meticulous at all times. Annual compliances are mandatory for continued recognition. What is the compliance status of the NSFs currently, is not on record. The perceived non-monitoring or selective monitoring or permissive monitoring by the authorities gives cause to citizens to seek judicial review of the same. This needs to be remedied," the Court said.
In the concurring opinion, Justice Manmohan expressed surprise on the fact that the IOA Constitution stipulated that its President can be for life.
"Seeing the present Constitution, one is reminded of the mausoleum of first Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang, where terracotta soldiers were buried with the purpose of protecting the Emperor in his afterlife!," the Court said.
The Court accordingly directed the Centre to not grant recognition or any facility (monetary or otherwise) to the IOA or to any NSF if they refuse to comply with the Sports Code.
"Further, those who mismanage the sports bodies and those who have converted the sports bodies into their personal fiefdoms, dare the Government / Authorities and Courts that if they try to democratize the sport association and remove the mis-management, the country would suffer de- recognisation and the Indian sportsmen would not be able to participate under the country‟s flag in the immediate future. In fact, the respondents have tried their best to brand the „problem solver‟ (i.e. the Court/Government) as the „problem‟," the Court said.
It added "It is high time that structural reforms are implemented to remove the mis-management in the sports bodies and to democratize these institutions. The Central and State Governments may well consider passing a comprehensive legislation with regard to recognition and management of sports bodies incorporating the best practices and the IOC Charter without which no facility (monetary or otherwise) should be granted by any State and Union of India."
Case Title: RAHUL MEHRA v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 782
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