Observing that women participation in sporting events and their victories is as much a matter of pride and joy, as the victories of their male counterparts, the Delhi High Court has said that significant presence of women in the sporting world must be acknowledged.
The Court made the observation while noting that in all its 95 years of existence, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) never had a woman as its President or Secretary General.
While adding that sports administration is "not a male preserve", the Court further said that women do aspire to be in significant positions in the decision making process and that their presence both in the General Body, as well as the Election Commission of the IOA, will lend to "fruition of their valid aspirations."
Accordingly, the Court directed that women shall comprise half of the category of sportspersons with voting rights in the General Body as well as in the Election Commission of IOA.
"Special representation of women in Governing Bodies is a requirement under Clause 2.4 of the IOC‟s Code of Ethics. Women comprise about 50% of the country‟s population. Their numbers in sporting activities is increasing by the day. Their representation in the Indian contingent at the Olympics and other international sporting events is in equal measure with men," the Court said.
It added "Their participation in such events and the celebrations of their victories is as much a matter of pride and joy, as the victories of their male counterparts. There is every reason to acknowledge women‟s significant presence in the sporting world. Sports administration is not a male preserve."
A division bench comprising of Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Manmohan was dealing with 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The plea also sought recognition of defaulting NSFs be suspended or withdrawn, and that the benefits given to such non compliant NSFs be not resumed till the constitution and administration of the IOA or NSF is brought into conformity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.
Observing that Sports Code has to be read as an enabling code and not as a restrictive document, the Court observed that Sportspersons would best espouse the concerns of players and would benefit the administration of a NSF with their experience and knowledge.
"Therefore, their inclusion in the General Body and in the EC would augment the objectives of the Sports Code," the Court said.
It further added that the number of sportspersons with voting rights in the General Body should be equal to at least the NSFs representing Olympic sports.
"This category shall have equal number of women and men. If need be, on rotational basis for each successive tenure," the Court said.
The Court also put the affairs of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as per a recent Supreme Court order.
The Court also opined that all NSFs complying with the Sports Code and representing Olympic sports, will automatically qualify for IOA membership subject to completion of formalities.
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 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."
Title: RAHUL MEHRA v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 782