CoA in Hockey India, warning for other errant sports federations
The HC's order was in response to Aslam Sher Khan's petition two years ago challenging HI's decision, among others.
After the All India Football Federation (AIFF), it's Hockey India's turn now. The Delhi High Court has appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) for violating National Sports Development Code of India (2011). The CoA would look after the day-to-day activities of HI until elections are held under a new constitution aligned with the sports code.
The HC's order was in response to Aslam Sher Khan's petition two years ago challenging HI's decision, among others, the creation of a life president's post and including Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in its managing committee. The CoA would also look into the accounts of the HI. The two of the three members are the same as in AIFF — former SC judge AR Dave and SY Qureshi, former chief election commissioner -- and Moscow Olympic gold medallist and captain Zafar Iqbal.
Within hours, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president, Narinder Batra, released a statement that said he would not contest IOA elections. Since his "... role as President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) requires more time for all these activities. Consequently, I’ve decided to not run for a further term as President of the IOA."
That would open various possibilities within IOA. Whether or not it would bring together the warring factions of the IOA president and secretary general, Rajiv Mehta, only time will tell. However, the bigger worry would be the reserved order of the Court on IOA's election and violation of the sports code.
Going by a slew of recent judgments involving National Sports Federations (NSFs) and violation of sports code, CoA seems to be a plausible answer. The Court had also observed that the term of the IOA executive committee was over on December 14, 2021. Even dynamics in the IOA are expected to change. Mehta faction feels things are tilting in their favour.
According to senior IOA officials, Batra, however, continues to be an International Olympic Committee member. And according to the IOA constitution, an IOC member is part of the IOA executive council with voting rights.
What seems baffling for some IOA members is what happens if there is an IOA election before the NSFs' issues are resolved. There are a few NSFs under CoA and according to Judo Federation of India officials, the federation is expected to go the same way. Since they are all part of the IOA, and if there is an election before the issues are resolved then CoA would have the power to nominate members to vote.
According to the HI order passed by the two-judge bench of judges Najmi Wazri and Swarana Kanta Sharma, there are a couple of points that indicate that things might not be easy for other NSFs and the IOA.
Some of the points in the order are quite interesting. One such is, "The age and tenure restrictions of the Sports Code as well as the cooling-off period between successive terms in the Managing Committee of a NSF, coupled with the necessary 2/3rd votes for the second term, are clear safeguards against permanent positions in a NSF. What cannot be done “per directum” is not permitted “per obliquum” meaning thereby, that whatever is prohibited by law cannot be effected by an indirect or circuitous contrivance." The 2/3 voting is one of the sticky points in IOA's case too. Unless unanimous, garnering a 2/3 majority is always a tall order.
Senior advocate who specialises in sports law, Rahul Mehra, has already petitioned against almost all federations violating sports code and is up for hearing on Thursday. Even that order could follow the same line. "My petition on NSFs violating Sports Code was tagged along with the HI case and I too gave my views," said Mehra on Wednesday. "I have told the court that NSFs are not complying with the Sports Code and I hope to get a favourable verdict." Mehra said that Batra's position in HI was in violation of this code.
Going by the HI order, it seems there might be more in store for errant NSFs. One such line that would make them uneasy is: "The Government of India cannot grant recognition to an NSF whose constitution is not in consonance with the Sports Code." Almost all NSFs violate Sports Code in some form or the other.
"Therefore, it would be in the public interest that its affairs be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as has been directed by the Supreme Court on 18th May 2022, in the case of another NSF in All India Football Federation vs. Rahul Mehra & Ors." If this is considered as a precedent, then more verdicts are expected to follow the same line.