The observer appointed by the Union Sports Ministry for the Hockey India (HI) elections has written to the Returning Officer (RO) to point out that the revised Union Government guidelines, including the age limit for principal office-bearers, should be followed when the elections are held here on July 28.
The Government observer, S.K. Mendiratta, wrote to Returning Officer Justice R.C. Chopra (retd) that the guidelines, as issued on May 1 last, stipulated that the main office-bearers would not be eligible to hold office after attaining the age of 70.
The move is obviously to prevent Vidya Stokes from contesting the post of president that she currently holds.
Mendiratta stated that the conditional ‘no objection' clearance was given to HI to hold elections subject to the fulfilment of the policy guidelines.
The HI Secretary-General, Narinder Batra, said on Monday that his federation's constitution placed no restrictions on the tenure of office-bearers.
“They (ministry) have given an affidavit in the Delhi High Court stating that they can no longer deal with Hockey India. Then why are they interfering in its affairs?” asked Batra.
Mendiratta has written to state that he and the Returning Officer had discussed about obtaining declarations from candidates regarding their age qualification. He stated that the same would become important at the time of scrutiny of nominations on Tuesday.
Not in agreement
On Monday evening, Mrs. Stokes wrote to Justice Chopra to state that HI was not in agreement with the views expressed by Mendiratta. She further stated that HI was a Society formed under the Societies Registration Act 1860, having its own constitution and election guidelines.
She requested Justice Chopra to conduct the elections in accordance with the constitution and by-laws of Hockey India. In case the ministry initiated any action “against our election then we shall invoke legal remedies,” Mrs Stokes wrote.
Being a new body, the stipulation about the number of terms would not come into play in the HI elections.
Interestingly, at the time when the ministry gave recognition to Hockey India, through a letter to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in August 2009, it had stated that the office-bearers would not be eligible to continue for more than two consecutive terms of four years each.
The revised guidelines permit the president of a federation to continue for 12 years while restricting the terms of secretary and treasurer to two terms of four years each at a stretch.
Recently, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) had re-elected V.K. Verma as its president for another term, past the 12-year limit, in violation of the guidelines. The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) also did the same with regard to the re-election of its secretary, Virendra Nanavati. Federations are saying that they do not have such tenure restrictions or age limit in their constitutions and they do not intend to bring in such stipulations since the IOA had taken the stand that it would rather protect its own autonomy and that of the federations rather than give in to the government regulations.