Delhi HC forces Sports Code on Indian Olympics Association

Updated - August 18, 2022 06:56 pm IST

Published - August 16, 2022 09:54 pm IST - New Delhi

Former SC judge Justice Anil R. Dave will lead the CoA which will oversee the functioning of the IOA

Former SC judge Justice Anil R. Dave will lead the CoA which will oversee the functioning of the IOA | Photo Credit: File photo

Compliance with the Sports Code is non-negotiable, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday while reigning in a slew of reforms for the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) including appointing a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to take over its affairs.

It is high time that structural reforms are implemented to remove the mismanagement in the sports bodies and to democratize these institutions, the HC said while putting the affairs of IOA in the hands of the CoA comprising former Supreme Court judge Justice Anil R. Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, and former Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup.

“If a sports federation does not comply with the law of the land, it will receive no recognition from the Government. All benefits and facilities to it will stop promptly. It is better that a legitimate body represents the cause of sportspersons than one simply masquerading as the real champion of Indian sports,” a bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Najmi Waziri remarked.

Landmark decision

The HC’s landmark decision came on a petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra seeking strict compliance by the IOA and the National Sports Federations (NSFs) with the Sports Code.

The IOA is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organises the Olympic Games, as the representative sports body for India. The government has recognised 56 NSFs, of which only 29 relate to Olympic sports.

The objective of the Sports Code is the adoption of ‘good governance’ practises by the NSFs and the IOA. The Sports Code lays down guidelines for NSFs to enjoy various facilities/concessions provided by the Government.

Reiterating that the Sports Code is applicable to IOA in “full measure”, the HC struck down the post of ‘life president’ and any such permanent post for an individual in IOA as being illegal. It further held that differential voting rights in IOA cannot be permitted.

Voting rights

According to the IOA Constitution, NSFs representing sports for Olympic / Asian / Commonwealth Games and the National Federation of indigenous game kho-kho, have three representatives with a vote to each. This entitles them to cast votes in IOA’s Annual General Meetings and Special General Meetings. However, State Olympic Associations (SOAs) and Union Territories Olympic Associations (UTOAs) have only two representatives with a vote each.

This, the HC said, cannot be permitted.

The HC also reduced IOA’s General Body to 90 members from its current 184 members. Its EC (executive committee) strength shall not exceed 15 members, comprising seven office bearers and eight elected sportspersons, it ordered.

Representation of women

Noting that the representation of women at the Olympics and other international sporting events is equal to men, the HC ordered that women shall comprise half of the category of sportspersons with voting rights in the General Body as well as in the EC.

The IOA Constitution permits a person to hold office for 20 years without undergoing a cooling-off period. The HC, in its 72-page-judgment, said it must be not more than three tenures along with cooling-off period(s).

The HC further said that the Sports Code requires prominent sportspersons of outstanding merit as members of the respective sports federations on a tenure basis. The strength of such prominent sportspersons with voting rights should be minimum 25 percentage of the total members representing the federation.

A person against whom criminal charges have been framed should not be permitted to be a member either of the EC or the General Assembly, the HC added.

The judges remarked that the history of persistent recalcitrance of the IOA for almost half a century to comply with the Sports Code, despite its consistent assurance to the Government, the societal concerns and the larger public good, make it imperative that its affairs be put in the hands of CoA.

The CoA will also have consultant sportspersons in Mr. Abhinav Bindra, Olympic gold medallist, Anju Bobby George, long jump Olympian, and Bombayla Devi Laishram, archery Olympian. The HC said the CoA would be at liberty to make all appropriate arrangements for the governance of IOA until fresh elections are held in terms of a constitution conforming to the Sports Code.

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