The Sports ministry has withdrawn annual recognition of 54 National Sports Federations (NSFs) on Thursday after the Delhi High Court asked it to maintain status quo till further orders. Out of the 54, nine belonging to the ‘high priority’ category have been rendered ineligible for the financial grant and assistance for training and competition from the government.
The Ministry had extended the recognition until September 30 but were forced to overturn the order. In a letter to all 54 federations Ministry deputy secretary SPS Tomar wrote, “In compliance with the Order dated 24.06.2020 passed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court…, the Department’s letter of even number dated 02.06.2020 granting provisional annual recognition of 54 NSFs stands withdrawn.”
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The ruling means the suspension of three federations -- Indian Golf Union, School Games Federation of India and Rowing Federation of India -- is set to continue. However, an official from the sports ministry has stated that they will file a fresh application before the bench to ‘sort out the crisis at the earliest.’
While the annual recognition is granted to the federation in January each year -- the Ministry receives the performance chart of each NSF in December and reviews, considers and grants the recognition by January end -- this time the process took longer than usual and was delayed. By the time it could be concluded, the pandemic took over and the lockdown was imposed. To make sure things went on without confusion the Ministry extended a provisional recognition to all NSFs till September 30, 2020.
This went against the Court’s February 7 order which categorically directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Ministry to file affidavits detailing steps taken towards recognition, de-recognition, and creation of ad-hoc bodies in the NSFs and not to grant any fresh recognition without first approaching the court and seeking its consent.
Consequently on Wednesday a bench consisting of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Najmi Waziri reprimanded the ministry for trying to ‘overreach’ the Court’s order.
The issue itself arose because of a PIL filed by lawyer and activist Rahul Mehra who demanded a probe into the functioning of various sports bodies including Hockey India (HI) and the IOA. Mehra alleged the Ministry chose the pandemic to arbitrarily extend recognitions to protect federations that committed irregularities.
Mehra further said that the process to grant provisional recognition was ‘in violation of sports code’. He claimed that ‘the IOA was trying to derecognise a lot of sports federations and simultaneously create parallel bodies while the sports ministry played ball.’
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“The IOA’s modus operandi is they write a letter to the international federation of a particular sport, bring up certain disputes and piggy-backing on that, they call for the creation of a new body,” Mehra said to the Indian Express, indicating that there are around five instances that this took place.
He blamed IOA office-bearers for indulging in this ‘to create a suitable vote bank’. “The ministry was not stopping them,” Mehra said. “When I brought this to the notice of the court, an order was passed in which one para said if the ministry and IOA seek to take any decision with regard to NSFs, they will file the material before the court and subsequently take the decision.”
Reports suggest that the Ministry is now intending to file a ‘Special Leave Petition’ (SLP) with a higher bench of court to seek a solution to implement its June 2 order and provide a provisional annual recognition to all the NFS.
IOA president Narinder Batra has denied any wrongdoing. “I am all for good governance. The government does not give any federation a single paisa. All the funding is directly credited in the accounts of concerned parties. Please show us where there are governance issues,” Batra said.
The impact of the order could have a far reaching impact on the way Indian sport operates.
The government is supposed to grant funding and permissions for national camps and international tournaments only to recognised sports bodies. Withdrawing recognition of all federations would complicate this.
Currently, due to the pandemic, there are no training camps under process -- except for weightlifting and athletics -- and any kind of participation in international tournaments is not an option until global sport and travel resumes.
The impact of the decision made by the court will be minimal right now but once sports resume and preparation for the Olympics begin, this stalemate could delay administrative decisions and hamper training for athletes.
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The government and the IOA are also puzzled by the decision made by the court which says they will first have to inform the bench about any decision taken in relation to the NSFs before executing it.
The IOA is worried about this ‘interference’ by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which would be a violation of its charter. “We will accept and honour the court’s order. But my only fear is whether this leads to a suspension from the IOC. If you have to take permission for everything, then the autonomy goes away,” Batra said. “In 2012, when the IOC suspended India, one of the reasons was interference in IOA’s functioning.”
Some of the prominent disciplines set to be affected are: chess, football, tennis, carrom, baseball, kabaddi, soft tennis, athletics, atya patya, badminton, ball badminton, basketball, billiards and snooker, boxing, bridge, cycle polo, cycling, equestrian, fencing, handball, hockey, polo, bodybuilding, kayaking and canoeing, pencak silat, rugby, triathlon, weightlifting, judo, karate, kho-kho, kudo, mallakhamb, shooting, netball, roll ball, roller-skating, sepak takraw, shooting ball, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennikoit, tennis ball cricket, ten-pin bowling, tug-of-war, volleyball, wrestling, wushu, yachting, sports council for the deaf and motor sports
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