The nomination of Mrs Vidya Stokes for the post of president was accepted by the Returning Officer for the Hockey India (HI) elections on Tuesday on the understanding that the federation was not following the Union Government guidelines and would not need government funding in future.
Faced with the nomination of 82-year-old Vidya Stokes, in violation of the age stipulation of 70 in the government guidelines, as conveyed by the Government observer S. K. Mendiratta, the Returning Officer ruled in favour of the former.
The ruling came following oral submissions made by HI Secretary Narinder Batra and lawyer Hitesh Jain to the Returning Officer, Justice R. C. Chopra (retd), on Tuesday during scrutiny of nominations for the July 28 elections.
Hockey India argued that it was a registered society having its own constitution and by-laws and was not bound by the latest government guidelines.
Batra accepted the fact, when the Returning Officer pointed out the consequences of non-adherence to the guidelines, that his federation would have to manage without government funding.
The contest for the president's post would be between Mrs Stokes and former India captain Pargat Singh while Batra will take on G. Haider of Arunachal for the secretary's post.
According to Batra, K. Krishnamurthy's nomination for secretary was rejected since he was not part of the electoral college. Court decisions also did not favour him, according to Batra.
Batra said that HI accepted the position as it stood in January, 2010 when its former president, A.K. Mattoo, wrote to the ministry accepting the conditions laid down by the Government for recognition including the tenure of office-bearers.
At the time, the Government granted its recognition to HI in August 2009, the tenure clause restricted the term of office-bearers to two terms of four years each at a stretch. There was no age bar at that time.
No age bar
“We don't accept whatever has been brought in (in the guidelines) after that. There is no age bar in the FIH or the IOA, the two parent bodies we follow,” said Batra.
A Sports Ministry spokesman while reacting to the development on Tuesday cautioned HI that if the body was desirous of maintaining its status as a recognised federation then it would have to follow the guidelines as a whole.
“If you want to function as a National Federation then you have to be guidelines-compliant. There is no other option. There is no question of accepting part of those guidelines or stating that you don't require government funding. Either you accept government recognition and follow the guidelines or function as a private club,” ministry's Joint Secretary Injeti Srinivas said.
There was little merit in the argument, according to him, that the guidelines as they existed in August 2009 were different. “The guidelines are dynamic,” he said.
The ministry would, however, wait for an elected Hockey India to emerge and assess its decision about government funding before taking a call on HI and its latest stance.
“We don't know whether the opinion expressed by two nominated members (of HI) has the backing of the majority in an elected body,” he said.
The ministry has also taken the stand that, for the time being at least, the two recognised federations (HI and Indian Hockey Federation) could have the right to function at the national level because of the exceptional circumstances following a court order.
It has already communicated to government departments that no player should be penalised for playing under one federation or the other.
The air of confusion, in the ministry's assessment, was likely to clear after the Asian Games in November.
Keywords: Hockey India