The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has dispelled all doubts regarding the ‘contentious’ clause, which the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has been objecting to on the grounds that the law of the land allows politicians facing criminal and corruption charges to contest elections.

In its latest communication to the IOA, the IOC — which stressed on good governance, ethics and integrity — has set stiff deadlines, and insisted that the IOA must include in its constitution by October 31 the clause which prevents “charge-framed and convicted individuals” from participating in polls, and hold its elections by December 15.

The majority of the IOA members have been arguing that the IOC’s suggestion bars charge-sheeted persons from contesting elections, which is not in line with the law of the land.

Putting this notion aside, the IOC said that it was “well aware of the difference between charge-sheeted persons and charge-framed persons in the Indian legal system, and has never requested that the clause, initially proposed, applies for charge-sheeted persons.”

“Therefore it is reiterated that the initial wording is aimed to apply to anyone charge-framed by a court in India. As mentioned in the preparatory working phase, the IOC does fully respect the principle that ‘until proven guilty one is innocent.’ However, what is at stake is the reputation of the Olympic Movement which must not be tarnished (as mentioned in the IOC Code of Ethics and the newly adopted IOA Code of Ethics),” the IOC communication said.

The IOC noted that the key clause — which “provides that any member who has been charge-framed by any court in India in respect of a criminal or corruption offense which would be punishable with imprisonment if he/she was convicted, will not be eligible to run for the IOA elections and will be provisionally suspended from the IOA until a final ruling is made” — was not included among the IOA amendments.

The apex body had repeatedly underscored the clause during the preparation phase of the revision of the IOA constitution.

The IOA, in its August 25 General Assembly, had decided that any person who had been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years or more would be ineligible to contest its polls. Cases of persons convicted for a sentence of less than two years were supposed to be referred to the Ethics Commission.

The IOC said the clause had initially proposed that “a member who has been convicted of any criminal or corruption offense by a court (whose ruling is final) will not be eligible to run for elections and will be automatically expelled from the IOA.”

The IOC indicated that it could not rely on the suspended IOA, and made it mandatory that this particular clause be included in its constitution.

The communication reads: “Given the history and the present circumstances, the IOC came to the conclusion that the system proposed by the suspended IOA (which might possibly work in the future) does not give all the necessary guarantees for the moment to achieve the expected results.

“If a specific clause, which would apply automatically or almost automatically, is not included in the revised constitution of the IOA, there is a serious risk, in the current context, that the effect is diluted.”

“It is required that the suspended IOA includes the initial wording proposed by the IOC (or a very similar wording which would not dilute the meaning and the expected results, and which would submitted in advance to the IOC) with respect to both charge-framed and convicted individuals. This is a prerequisite for the IOC to approve the revised constitution of the IOA.”

After the required amendments, the IOC suggested that it could approve the IOA’s constitution to pave the way for the NOC’s elections.

The IOC reiterated that the age and tenure restrictions (or at least the age limit) should be applicable not only to the president, the secretary-general and the treasurer, but for all members of the executive council.

“Upon completion of the whole process mentioned above, the IOC Executive Board would be in a position to consider lifting the suspension of the IOA,” said the IOC letter, claiming full support of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

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