Veteran sports administrator Narinder Batra was on Wednesday removed as IOA President after the Delhi High Court struck down the position of ‘Life Member’ in Hockey India, courtesy which he had contested and won the apex body elections back in 2017.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) senior vice president Anil Khanna took over as acting chief. Batra had filed his nomination for the IOA president’s post as a representative (Life Member) of Hockey India. The Delhi HC ruled that the position of Life Member and Life President were “illegal” since they were not in consonance with the National Sports Code and installed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the day-to-day affairs of Hockey India.
The court ruling came while hearing a petition of former India hockey player and a member of the 1975 World Cup-winning team, Aslam Sher Khan, who had challenged Batra’s appointment as life member of Hockey India. “…the administrative setup of R-2 (Hockey India) is, erroneously or illegally constituted because of the Life President and Life Members,” the HC bench of Justices Najmi Wajiri and Swarana Kanta Sharma said in its order.
“The Government of India cannot grant recognition to a NSF whose constitution is not in consonance with the Sports Code. The posts of Life President, Life Member in the NSF are illegal so is the post of CEO in the Managing Committee. These posts are struck-down.” Hours after the High Court ruling, IOA issued a statement saying Khanna is now the acting chief of the body.
“….Hence by way of this judgment, Mr. Batra has also been removed from the post of President of the Indian Olympic Association. With the removal of Mr. Batra from Indian Olympic Association, the Acting President of Indian Olympic Association shall be Mr. Anil Khanna who is the Sr. Vice President of IOA.” The HC also came down hard on Batra for trying to “benefit” elsewhere from an “illegal” post. “What a paradox, to make oneself permanent in an entity whose tenure itself is impermanent.
The illegal Post of Life President or Life Member cannot be the stepping-stone for any other position or benefit elsewhere, be it nationally (including in Indian Olympic Association) or in international bodies,” the HC bench said.
Batra is also heading International Hockey Federation (FIH). He became President of the world hockey body in 2016 and reclaimed the position last year for a second term. “If R-3 (Batra) has so benefitted, then such benefit or position shall end right away. Let the CoA look into the matter, so would the Government of India.
“…had himself appointed as Life Member of Hockey India. This smacks of … brazen impertinence to the clear mandate of law. It was a less than honest but futile endeavour to institutionalize oneself in a body whose legitimacy itself is contingent upon conformity with the Sport Code and the law.” The HC also empowered the CoA to recover whatever amount of money Batra owes as “expenses incurred on such supernumerary, innovative and illegal posts”.
Within hours of the Delhi HC decision, Batra issued a statement, saying that he will not seek re-election for a second term when the IOA elections are held and that needs to spend more time as head of International Hockey Federation.
The IOA elections, which were due to be held in December last year, have been kept in abeyance due to another pending court case. Batra’s removal means that his membership of International Olympic Committee will also come to an end as the coveted position was linked to his IOA presidency.
Batra was made an IOC member in 2019.
“At a time when world hockey is going through an essential development phase, with the promotion of Hockey5s, the creation of a new competition this year – the FIH Hockey Nations Cup – and the launch of fan-engaging platforms and activities, my role as President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) requires more time for all these activities,” Batra said in the statement.
“Consequently, I’ve decided to not run for a further term as President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).” Batra’s reign has been a controversial one due to the simmering tension between the factions led by him and Secretary General Rajeev Mehta.
In 2020, IOA vice-president Sudhanshu Mittal had written to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), alleging irregularities and false declarations by Batra in his election to the top post. “Since he had already resigned from any office bearer’s post with Hockey India in order to comply with the FIH Statute, there is no possible way that he could be in the executive committee of Hockey India, unless Narinder Batra has given false declarations and information to the FIH and to everyone else that he has resigned from Hockey India.”
Recently, Batra had apologised for a social media post against former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, a development which had led to demands of his resignation from the IOA top job. Last month, the CBI had also initiated a preliminary inquiry against Batra for alleged misappropriation of public funds.