Delhi High Court allows RFI to hold election but with a rider

Two-judge division bench did not stay the poll but directed the federation to implement sports code up to the district associations within three months
Delhi High Court. Image used for representation.
Delhi High Court. Image used for representation.

CHENNAI: In an interesting development, the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) election that was supposed to be held on Sunday was not stayed by the Delhi High Court. After a series of elections were stalled through court proceedings, this has come as a welcome relief for the National Sports Federation.

It was just recently that the election of the Volleyball Federation of India was stayed a day before it was to be held on February 17. On Friday, however, the RFI got a big relief, though partial, as a two-judge division bench of Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora did not stay the election but directed the federation to implement sports code up to the district associations within three months.

The division bench hearing a petition filed by the Delhi rowing association that had requested the court to stall the election because the rowing federation and its units are not sports code compliant.

According to Vidushpat Singhania, sports lawyer representing Delhi, the court has directed the RFI and all its affiliated state and district units to comply with the sports code in three months.

"It is a landmark decision in sports governance," said Singhania.

"The honourable court has asked the RFI to submit ballot papers, without counting them, in a sealed envelope."

He said that the HC had asked the RFI president and secretary to give an affidavit stating that they are National Sports Development Code compliant especially with the 13 provisions that were listed in the Rahul Mehra's vs Union of India (2022 order). Besides the RFI needs to bring in reformation not only in itself but also in its state and district units.

On Thursday, Judge Sachin Datta, while hearing Delhi state's petition, has said that “During the course of hearing, it is conceded by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner association (Delhi Rowing Association), on instructions, that the constitution of the petitioner association itself is not in compliance with the Sports Code and the aforesaid judgment dated 16.08.2022. As such, the petitioner association, on its own showing, is not eligible to participate in the election process, which is impugned in the present petition.”

Interestingly, Harpal Singh, who had contested the RFI election for the president’s post in 2020 but lost to Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, will again be in the fray for the top job and filed his nomination from Delhi.

Outgoing president Deo, who has completed three four-year terms, hailed and welcomed the order of the Delhi HC and said it is a big relief for the federation as all members will be in Hyderabad for the election on Sunday. She also said that most of the state units are sports code compliant and the small number that are not will be compliant in the next three months as directed by the Delhi HC. Since the election result will be with the court, the current office-bearers have been asked to oversee the changes in state and district units.

“It is a very big relief for us and I really welcome the decision of the court,” said Deo. “The court has directed us to oversee the changes in the state and district units. I am sure this will be over within the time given by the court. Most of the state units are already sports code compliant and there are five or six that may not have adhered to the sports code, we will make sure they do.”

Deo also said that non-compliance is mostly because of age and tenure. “The states will be asked to follow sports code as directed by the court and age and tenure issues too will be addressed,” she said, adding reforms will be done within twelve weeks.

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