The simmering row between the government and sports federation bosses over tenure limitations intensified with the IOA saying the Sports Ministry’s attempt to erode their autonomy could lead to sanctions against the country.

Armed with letters of support from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the IOA went on the offensive and said sports bodies could not be subjected to interference and external pressure as per the Olympic Charter.

“Any restriction in the tenure of the office-bearers and fixing age limit may amount to interference to the internal functioning of the National Olympic Committees. This may lead to violation of Olympic Charter and IOC executive board may hand sanctions, suspension or withdrawal of recognition of such NOCs,” IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh told a press conference.

“The issue of limiting tenure and fixing age limit of office-bearers of the NOCs shall not be decided or imposed by law of any government or external pressure but should be decided by the NOCs themselves. These should be the prerogative of the NOCs and decided by their executive committees or general assemblies,” Randhir said, quoting a letter from the IOC.

The letter said that there was a need to have a good relationship between the NOCs and respective governments but that would not mean that the latter can interfere in the internal working of the sports bodies.

“There should be harmonious relationship between NOCs and their respective governments. But the autonomy of the NOCs is enshrined in the Olympic Charter and it is the balance between this autonomy and good relation with the governments that is important for the development of sport.

NOCs no doubt work under the government but they are also subject to Olympic Charter and the constitution of the international federations. The respective governments must understand that the NOCs can in no way be subject to interference or external pressure in the internal functioning of these organisations (NOCs),” the letter said.

Randhir also said that OCA chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad was of the view that Sports Ministry order violates Olympic Charter and OCA Constitution.

“I am extremely concerned by the media reports of the Indian Sports Minister’s May 1, 2010 order, which clearly violates the Olympic Charter and the Constitution of the OCA.

All NOCs must preserve autonomy. There should be no interference on the autonomy of the NOCs,” Randhir said, quoting a letter from the OCA chief.

“Governments cannot impose the number of terms of NOC office-bearers and their age limits. These are the prerogatives of the NOCs concerned,” said Randhir.

The new regulations issued by the Sports Minister on Sunday bar NSF presidents, which includes long-standing IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi, cannot occupy the post for more than 12 years, with or without break, while secretaries and treasurers can serve eight years at a stretch and can seek a re-election only after a four-year gap.

Apart from Kalmadi, the regulation seeks to end the more than a decade-old reign of VK Malhotra (archery), Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (cycling), VK Verma (badminton), Captain Satish K Sharma (aero club) and B S Adityan (volleyball).

Gill, on his part, said the new regulation has the backing of all political parties and is in fact a softer version of the original 1975 guideline.

“On April 22, there was a full debate on my Ministry in the Rajya Sabha and all parties, barring none, urged me to have the regulation to limit terms (of the sports administrators), this being the demand of the sports people and the public for long,” Gill said.

“I studied the issue with my officers and gave a considered order which, should be read and re-read for total understanding,” he said.

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