The Delhi High Court has come down heavily on the sports ministry for the “delay” in implementing the 2017 National Code for Good Governance across the National Sports Federations (NSFs) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), wondering why a new committee was constituted to “review” its rules and regulations. There was, said the court in a strong-worded order, no occasion for the sports ministry to “now decide to reinvent the wheel, as it were”. (More Sports News)
In the order, passed by a two-member bench on December 6 and released on Monday, on an application filed by advocate and activist Rahul Mehra, Justices S. Muralidhar and Najmi Waziri said the secretary in sports ministry has indulged in “disobedience” of specific directions by not filing an affidavit.
The court said that the secretary, Radhey Shyam Julaniya, should file the said affidavit in terms of the October 18 order, by December 20, which is the next date of hearing.
The IOA and NSFs have “rejected” the draft Code of 2017, saying it “interferes in the autonomy of the IOA and its members [NSFs]”.
“Not only has the affidavit not been filed by the Secretary, which itself is in disobedience of the specific directions issued by the Court, but there was no occasion for the Ministry of Youth Affair and Sports (MYAS) to now decide to reinvent the wheel, as it were, by constituting another committee to again review the Draft National Sports Code which has been painstakingly prepared over a period of two years by a committee which had a broad spectrum of representation and which was chaired by a Secretary, MYAS. The present president of the IOA was also a member,” the order reads. IOA president is Narinder Dhruv Batra, who is also president of the International Hockey Federation.
The bench also pointed out that the MYAS had on May 25, 2019, sought a six-month time to comply with the orders of this court, and that the said period expired on November 25. “In the above background, the Court fails to understand why another committee had to be constituted to review the Draft National Sports Code. Apart from undoing the work already undertaken to prepare the Draft National Sports Code and good governance for sports, this will delay the process of finalising that draft code which has been available with the MYAS since 2017,” said the bench.
“Consequently, this Court stays the order dated 26th November 2009 and issues a specific direction to the secretary, MYAS, to himself prepare and file an affidavit in terms of the order dated 18th October 2019 passed by this court on or before 20th December 2019. The said affidavit will also give a definite timeline within which, in compliance with the earlier order already passed by this court, the final National Code for Good Governance in Sports will emerge and that final form of the code will be placed on record before this court,” the order said.
The bench said that the sports secretary would also “indicate the steps taken to comply with the previous orders of this court for finalising the Code based on the recommendations of the committee and the report which was furnished and kept in the record”.
The first time a set of guidelines was issued by the sports ministry was way back in 1975. And since then there has been a lot of to-and-fro between the ministry and the IOA-NSFs. Mehra has been seeking transparency and accountability in Indian sports administration for years. He now fears “dilution” of the draft Code 2017 and suspects that, if done, it would beneficent certain individuals, including a few veteran sports administrators. In his application, he had also cited conflict of interest of most of the members on the 13-member committee, headed by Justice (Retired) Mukundakam Sharma of the Supreme Court. Justice Sharma had convened a meeting on December 10, but before it could be held came the stay order of the court.
“We, the IOA and all our members [NSFs], outrightly reject the new Draft Sports Code as it interferes in the autonomy of the IOA and its members. The Sports Code was discussed with the ministry of sports and implemented in 2014 in IOA Statutes which enabled IOA to regain its recognition in 2012,” IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta has said in the feedback letter sent to the sports ministry. Earlier, on October 11, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju had sought the feedback of the IOA and the NSFs on the draft Code 2017.
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