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Delhi High Court appoints COA to take over Indian Olympic Association and orders federations to accept Sports Code or forego funding

Players to have minimum 25% representation, age & tenure restrictions on officials, disfranchisement of State Olympic Associations.

In its judgment that could have a far-reaching impact on the governance of Indian sport, a Delhi High Court bench comprising Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Manmohan said there ‘should be no SOAs’ going forward.

Referring to its direction to the government in 2013, where it had observed that State Olympic Associations (SOAs) have ‘no worthwhile role or history of having added to sports development in the country for half a century’, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said the state bodies will no longer play any role in the functioning of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

In its judgment that could have a far-reaching impact on the governance of Indian sport, a Delhi High Court bench comprising Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Manmohan said there ‘should be no SOAs’ going forward.

“However, should the IOA insist on having them, the SOAs shall have no votes in the IOA nor will their members be elected to the IOA EC or discharge any position of authority or control, nor will the SOAs be funded, patronized or supported in any manner by the Government,” the judgment read.

This was one of the several decisions taken by the court; a verdict that petitioner Rahul Mehra described as ‘landmark’. The court has directed that the IOA elections must be held within the next 16 weeks. It has also ordered that players must have a minimum 25 percent representation in the general body and executive committee of the IOA.

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The judgment also added that the age and tenure restrictions will be applicable to all officials and not just the president, secretary and treasurer. While the maximum tenure of an official can be a maximum of three terms, that is 12 years, including a cool-off period, the upper limit for age is kept at 70 years. The current IOA Constitution, the court noted, ‘permits a person to hold offices for 20 years without undergoing a cooling-off period.’

A person against whom criminal charges are framed should not be allowed to be a member of the executive committee and the general body, the court added.

The bench also named a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the day-to-day affairs of the IOA along with three former players as ‘consultants’.

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The three administrators named to run the IOA are Justice Anil Dave, former Supreme Court judge, ex-chief election commissioner SY Quraishi and former secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swaroop. Each of them will receive an honorarium of Rs 3 lakh per month.

The consultant sportspersons, who will be paid Rs 1.5 lakh each, include Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, world championship medallist Anju Bobby George and Olympian Bombayla Devi.

The IOA officials have warned that this could lead to a suspension from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who could perceive this as outside interference. In fact, the IOC had already threatened to suspend the IOA last month, citing the same reason.

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In his remarks, Justice Manmohan clarified the ‘intent’ of their judgment is to ‘improve the ecosystem and bring about structural reforms and is not directed against a particular individual or sports federation.’

“Further, those who mismanage the sports bodies and those who have converted the sports bodies into their personal fiefdoms, dare the Government / Authorities and Courts that if they try to democratize the sport association and remove the mis-management, the country would suffer de-recognisation and the Indian sportsmen would not be able to participate under the country’s flag in the immediate future. In fact, the respondents have tried their best to brand the ‘problem solver’ (i.e. the Court/Government) as the ‘problem’,” Justice Manmohan noted.

What the court ordered

1. Players must have a minimum 25 percent representation in IOA’s general body as well as executive committee along with voting rights;

2. Age and tenure restrictions shall be applicable to all officials and not just the president, secretary and treasurer. Maximum tenure of three terms, i.e. 12 years, with a cooling-off period with an age cap of 70 years.

3. The Electoral College of the IOA shall consist of only National Sports Federations that govern Olympic sports. State Olympic Associations will no longer have any voting rights.

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4. Persons against whom criminal charges have been framed will not be eligible to be a part of the federation

5. All federations must comply with the Sports Code, failing which they shall not receive funding or enjoy any benefits from the government.

First published on: 16-08-2022 at 10:02:48 pm
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