Kerala HC:  Denial of PU Chitra’s participation in IAAF World Championship was arbitrary

Kerala High Court: Aggrieved by the decision of a Single Judge in a petition filed by P. Chitra, a national level athlete, who had been denied participation in the International Association of Athletic Federation World Championship (IAAF World Championship) 2017, to be held in London, the Athletic Federation of India (appellant herein) filed an appeal and the matter was heard by a Division Bench comprising of Navaniti Prasad Singh, CJ. and Raja Vijayaraghavan V, J.

The original petition contended that the decision to not include the petitioner was arbitrary because she was the gold medalist in the 1500m race in the Asian Athletic Championships, Bhubhaneshwar, which ensured automatic qualification as the area champion. The learned Single Judge, on account of urgency of the matter, granted interim relief and directed the Federation to ensure the participation of the petitioner in the World Championship.

However, the Federation contended that the petitioner secured a second position in the Nationals held subsequently which was the reason why she was disqualified and she was therefore suppressing material facts. Moreover, the Federation also contended that the Court could not interfere with the decision of an expert body like itself. Rejecting these arguments of the Federation, the Court held that there had been a lot of controversy with regard to the selections of various athletes for the aforesaid World Meet.

The rule whereby an athlete had to perform well in the Nationals had not been entirely followed by the Federation itself in the selection of athletes. The Court acknowledged the fact that representing one’s country in a world meet is the dream of every athlete and it was necessary for the Court to interfere in the arbitrary manner the Federation had been functioning. However, it was also brought to light that no new entries could be made to the list of participants representing the country post July 24, 2017. Observing that the writ issued by the interim order is a futile one incapable of obedience, the Court allowed the appeal and vacated the interim order. [Athletics Federation of India v. Chitra PU, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 11402, dated 03.08.2017]

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