‘Mander accepted the appointment in the presence of S.K. Mendiratta, Election Observer’
The ministry rejected the appointment of Mander stating that the Returning Officer must be independent
NEW DELHI: The tussle between the Union Sports Ministry and Hockey India (HI) about the appointment of G.S. Mander as the Returning Officer for the February 7 elections assumed serious confrontationist proportions on Wednesday with the Government not only rejecting HI’s nomination but also not accepting the opinion of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in the matter.
In a communication to the ministry on Tuesday, FIH Vice-President Antonio von Ondarza said that he was impressed with the credentials of Mander, president of the Wrestling Federation of India a vice-president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and he was an “excellent candidate to be the Returning Officer” for the HI elections.
Antonio von Ondarza, who is also the FIH observer for the elections, wrote that the decision to appoint Mander as the Returning Officer was taken by A.K. Mattoo before the HI Board accepted the latter’s resignation as president and Vidya Stokes took over.
“I had mentioned before in a meeting with the joint secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India, Injeti Srinivas, who mentioned that preferably a retired judge should be nominated, the FIH preferred a neutral candidate to come from another sports federation with experience in sport affairs. It was therefore decided to accept G.S. Mander as Returning Officer. The FIH is totally convinced of the capacity of the Returning Officer who will receive the nominations, monitor the elections to be held by secret ballot and therefore are going to be fair and transparent,” von Ondarza said.
He said Mander accepted the appointment in the presence of S.K. Mendiratta, Election Observer nominated by the Government. The FIH official said that Mander’s appointment had the approval of the FIH and the IOA.
In its letter to the HI President on Wednesday, the ministry said that HI was only an interim body which had appointed itself and could not exercise unlimited powers which could impair the legitimacy of the newly-elected body.
The ministry stated that representatives of the State units would have to be persons associated with the development of the sport in that State and not persons who had nothing to do with the sport.
The ministry has also issued a directive to HI that the representatives of member units who would constitute the governing council of HI should necessarily be an office-bearer or member of the member unit concerned.
The ministry rejected the appointment of Mander stating that the Returning Officer must be independent of HI as well as IOA because HI itself was a creation of the IOA.
The ministry advised HI to take immediate corrective steps and consider appointing C.K. Mahajan, retired High Court judge, or a retired Chief Election Commissioner or Madhukar Gupta, former Union Sports Secretary, who also served as the Home Secretary before his retirement, as the Returning Officer.
Meanwhile, the Punjab, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Delhi associations have written to the Sports Ministry objecting to the appointment of Mander as the Returning Officer. These units have also objected to the proxy voting system in the elections.