With the Commonwealth Games in Delhi just five months away, the Union Government has restored the contentious clause dealing with the tenure of office-bearers of the National Sports Federations (NSFs), including the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), with immediate effect.

However, in the case of existing office-bearers of the NSFs, including the IOA, it has been clarified that the limit would be enforceable only after the expiry of the current tenure.

The “tenure” clause in the Government guidelines, first issued in 1975, had been kept in “abeyance” since October 11, 2001, because of opposition from the IOA and the NSFs. The clause restricts the tenure of principal office-bearers of a federation to two terms of four years each, with the second term to be achieved through a two-third majority vote.

A few modifications

The latest order, dated May 1, coming in the wake of a series of confrontationist instances between the Union Sports Ministry and the IOA and the NSFs, allows for a few modifications from the original guidelines.

The President of a recognised NSF, including the IOA, can now hold office for a maximum of 12 years (as against the earlier eight years on the trot) with or without a break.

The secretary and the treasurer may serve a maximum of two successive terms of four years each after which a minimum “cooling off period” of four years will apply before the person is allowed to seek fresh election to either post.

The principal office-bearers would be forced to retire on attaining the age of 70.

The ministry has written that such restrictions were in existence in several international federations and even the International Olympic Committee had restrictions on tenure and age.

The ministry has also pointed out that in its order last March, the Delhi High Court had ruled that the Government guidelines, amended through the years, were valid, binding and enforceable and the “tenure clause” was not in violation of the Olympic Charter.

In an ongoing case in the Delhi High Court, the topic has come up again, and the court has “taken a serious view on this matter and has expressed deep concern at the inaction on the part of the Government.”

The ministry letter stated that compliance to the directions would be mandatory to receive financial assistance and to derive authority to perform public functions of selecting and entering teams in international competitions.

“I am satisfied that the cryptic order — passed on 24.8.2002 by the then minister, blocking the perfectly valid and well-considered regulations of 1975 — served no public interest. I have, therefore, set it aside.

“I passed this order in the confidence that it will serve the best interest of the sports persons of the country and it will give an impetus to transparent and professional management of Indian sports, in the new century,” said the Union Sports Minister, M.S. Gill on Sunday.

Citing the Olympic Charter

The IOA has been content to hide behind the Olympic Charter all these years and in recent months, when the pressure seemed to have mounted, it just re-iterated that Government interference might force the IOC to suspend the IOA, citing the recent example of Kuwait.

The tenure clause, breached much of the time by the NSFs through the past 35 years, was thrown out of the IOA statutes in the 80s by Mr. V.C. Shukla when he took over as the President. Almost all NSFs followed suit.

Several federations — notably in hockey and cricket — have also flouted the guideline regarding one-State-one-unit policy apart from ignoring stipulations regarding the appointment of National Coaches and formation of selection committees.

With the public mood very much against the federations, following the unsavoury happenings in the IPL, the ministry seems to have sprung something it has been reluctant to look into during the past couple of years.

It had earlier issued a notification bringing the NSFs under the ambit of the Right to Information Act and had, still earlier, ruled that there would be an “annual recognition” procedure.

The IOA and the NSFs have silently endured the “encroachment” keeping the Commonwealth Games in perspective.

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