CHENNAI: There is no respite for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and even the sports ministry. The first one for violating the sports code, and the other for overlooking violations and continuing to recognise them. After the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Hockey India (HI), there is a possibility more NSFs could face the flak from the Delhi High Court for non-compliance with the National Sports Development Code of India (2011). On Thursday, the division bench of Najmi Waziri and Vikas Mahajan directed the sports ministry to ensure all NSFs follow the sports code or take action and file a compliance report by the next hearing on June 2. And also, there should be no exemption for any federation.
This was in response to a petition filed by senior advocate and sports specialist Rahul Mehra in 2020 when the sports ministry extended recognition to NSFs despite failing to adhere to the sports code. According to Mehra, who approached the Delhi High Court on the sports ministry granting NSFs recognition despite not adhering to Sports Code in letter and spirit, the court wanted to sanction all NSFs.
"That would complicate matters and I suggested to the honourable court to seek a compliance report from the sports ministry and then act accordingly," said Mehra. The court was miffed that despite its January 2021 order that asked the sports ministry to closely monitor and follow NSFs' compliance with sports code, nothing much has moved forward. "It shall be for the respondents to follow up with all the concerned NSFs on a regular basis and call for compliance reports with regard to all aspects of the Sports Code. The Sports Federations which do not fall in line and comply with the Sports Code do not deserve and would not be entitled to receive any grants from the Central Government," said the January 22, 2021 order. The order further said, "It should be made clear to each of them that they would run the risk of them not being recognised/ de-recognised and their grants being stopped, in case they do not comply with the provisions of the National Sports Code."
Mehra said that Thursday's order was in continuance of the January order and asked the ministry that even after 15 months there is nothing to show on compliance from their side. "The court asked the ministry why it was taking so long for them to furnish the details," said Mehra. The ministry itself in its affidavits had said that the NSFs had been in violation of the sports code and yet, no action had been taken.
Another important decision the court had taken was regarding the exception given to sports on the basis of their 'peculiar nature' like Equestrian Federation of India, Indian Golf Union, Yachting Association of India and Rowing Federation of India. The sports ministry had given recognition to EFI considering it as a "peculiar sport" despite its own members objecting to it. The matter is in court. It needs to be seen how the sports ministry takes this forward. Quite a few federations even conducted their elections without modifying the constitution much to align it with the sports code.
Even in the case of HI, the sports ministry did not de-recognise it despite it not following the sports code in toto, especially in regards to the Life President's post. Most of the federations do not adhere to sports code and may face sanctions based on the severity of violations. Going by the last couple of judgments, Committee of Administrators seems to be the norm. It would be interesting to see what course the court would take.
On stadiums in Delhi
Mehra said the court also directed the governments to come back with the possibility of opening up stadia and school grounds to the neighbourhood population after drawing up a proper policy including infrastructure, security, etc. "I had been requesting the court that large playgrounds of schools and institutions be opened to neighbourhood kids and sports enthusiasts. Some of the institutions have big grounds and are not accessible to others. It will help the community," he said.
Mehra said the division bench had directed the Delhi and Union government to consider opening three stadiums in Delhi — Thyagaraj Stadium, Chhatrasal Stadium and Shivaji Stadium from 5am to 10pm in the larger public interest. "Some of the schools and institutions get over in the afternoon around 4pm and they would require stadiums to keep open for a longer period."