Delhi High Court: In the light of various irregularities found in the functioning of various sports bodies especially non-compliance by National Sports Federation(s) (‘NSF') and Indian Olympic Association (‘IOA') of the National Sports Development Code of India (NSDCI), 2011 (‘Sports Code'), a Division Bench of Manmohan and Najmi Waziri, JJ.* ordered removal of various clauses in the IOC's Constitution being antithesis to the Sports Code. The Court further constituted a temporary Committee of Administrators (‘CoA') to handle the affairs of the defaulting association and thus appointed persons of eminence from the fields of law, public administration, elections and international relations as members to be assisted by eminent sportspersons, as Consultants.
Manmohan, J. concurring the judgment rendered by Justice Wajiri remarked those who mismanage the sports bodies and those who have converted the sports bodies into their personal fiefdoms, dare the Government / Authorities and Courts that if they try to democratize the sport association and remove the mismanagement, the country will suffer de-recognition and the Indian sportsmen would not be able to participate under the country’s flag in the immediate future.
The IOA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) as the National Olympic Committee (‘NOC’) for India, which is responsible for constitution, organization and leading their respective delegations at the Olympic Games and at the regional, continental or world multi-sports competitions patronized by the IOC, also deciding upon the entry of athletes proposed by their respective national federations.
The Sports Code is an amalgamation of circular dated 20-09-1975 issued by Government of India, along with various orders, notifications issued from time to time and was later modified vide guidelines dated 14-08-2001, in the interest of improvement of standards of sports administration. It mandates providing a degree of transparency and some predictability in the decision-making process, thus improving the standards of sports administration in the country.
Thus, instant petition was filed seeking strict compliance by the IOA and the NSFs with the Sports Code and judicial dicta on the same and recognition of defaulting NSF(s) be suspended and/or withdrawn, Government patronage and the benefits the NSFs reap from government largesse such as access to sports facilities, financial assistance, tax concessions, customs duty exemptions, funding of travel and hospitality, etc. granted to NSF office bearers for sporting competitions, etc., cease forthwith and such benefits be not resumed till the constitution and administration of the IOA/ NSF is brought into conformity with the Sports Code.
Grievances of the petitioner
The majority of NSFs, including IOA, are yet to fully implement the basic principles of good governance and the mandate of involvement of sportspersons in the decision-making process, to enable their full participation in the administration of sports, had not been complied with. Even after lapse of more than 12 years from the letter of May 2010 and 47 years from 1975 Circular, the same irregularities and anomalies in the governance structure and management of national sports bodies continue to fester their affairs. There is blatant violation and disregard of the Sports Code, the IOC Charter and court orders.
Issue 1: Whether IOC is bound by the Sports Code?
Placing reliance on Indian Olympic Association v. Union of India, (2014) SCC OnLine Del 2967 and S Nithya v. Secretary, (2022) SCC OnLine Mad 318, the Court held that the Sports Code will be applicable to the IOA in full measure.
Issue 2: Whether Constitution of IOA is in consonance with Sports Code?
There are glaring anomalies in the IOA Constitution which are contrary to the Sports Code. These are as under and require rectification subject to Sports Code.
(i) No entity like Life President.
(ii) Differential voting rights cannot be permitted.
(iii) Non-determination of the Electoral College by the IOA is in contravention of judicial orders and is contrary to the objectives of the Sports Code.
(iv) Only NSFs for Olympic disciplines should be members of the IOA with voting rights.
(v) Age and tenure limits should be applied to all members of the Executive Committee (‘EC’) and General Assembly of IOA and not only to President, Secretary and Treasurer.
(vi) EC's size should be reasonable and not unwieldy.
(vii) There cannot be any restrictive, undemocratic clause, regarding elections to any post.
(viii) IOA Constitution permits a person to hold offices for 20 years without undergoing a cooling- off period, this must be rectified in accordance with the law of the land, i.e., not more than three tenures along with cooling-off period(s).
(ix) IOA must have independent Ethics, Athletes, Election and Arbitration Commissions, and Ombudsman, devoid of any control, direct or indirect, of the IOA. These Commissions must be funded by the Government from the budgetary allocation for NSFs including IOA
(x) Appointment of 25% prominent sportspersons of outstanding merit with voting rights in General Assembly and EC is mandatory in terms of clause 3.20 of 2001 Guidelines and para 9.3 (xii) of the Sports Code.
(xi) A person against whom criminal charges have been framed should not be permitted to be a member either of the EC or the General Assembly.
(xii) Persons seeking successive re-election for the same post must secure a two-thirds majority.
(xiii) The Sports Code must be made applicable to the IOA and to all NSFs.
The Court thus struck down various clauses which were contrary to the Sports Code.
The Court thus made conclusions and laid directions as follows:
If a sports federation does not comply with the law of the land, it will receive no recognition from the Government. All benefits and facilities to it will stop promptly
Governmental monitoring of compliance is expected to be prompt, robust and meticulous at all times. Annual compliances are mandatory for continued recognition.
IOA's affairs be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA), temporarily formed, having appointed Justice Anil R. Dave, former Judge of the Supreme Court; Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, IAS, former Chief Election Commissioner and Mr. Vikas Swarup, IFS, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs as Committee of Administrators. Mr. Abhinav Bindra (from Uttarakhand) Sport-Shooter, Olympic Gold Medalist; Ms. Anju Bobby George (from Kerala), Long Jump Olympian; and Ms. Bombayla Devi Laishram (from Manipur), Archer Olympian to be appointed as Consultant Sportspersons.
The functions, members, facilities of the CoA will be akin to what may be fixed in All India Football Federation v. Rahul Mehra, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 771
All NSFs complying with the Sports Code and representing Olympic sports will automatically qualify for IOA membership subject to completion of formalities.
If the compliance is not done by IOA, within the time specified hereinabove, its recognition by the Government shall stand suspended. The urgency for cooperation with the CoA and the onus for compliance with the Sports Code is upon the IOA.
Manmohan, J. in his concurring opinion directed that the Sports Code must be made applicable to every constituent of every NSF, including IOA as well as its constituents.
It further directed respondent 1/Union of India not to grant recognition or any facility (monetary or otherwise) to the IOA or to any NSF and/or any of its affiliated Associations, if they refuse to comply with the Sports Code as directed by this Court.
The Court further recommended the Central and State Government to consider passing a comprehensive legislation with regard to recognition and management of sports bodies incorporating the best practices and the IOC Charter without which no facility (monetary or otherwise) should be granted by any State and Union of India.
[Rahul Mehra v. UOI, WP (C) No. 195 of 2010, decided on 16-08-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner- Petitioner-in-person with Mr. Chaitanya Gosain and Mr. Amanpreet Singh, Advocates.
For Respondent- Mr. Sachin Datta, Senior Advocate with Mr. Anil Soni (CGSC), Mr. Vinayak Sharma, Mr. Devesh Dubey, Ms. Neetu Devrani, Mr. Himanshu Goel, Advocates for UOI alongwith Mr. SPS Tomar, Deputy Director (MoYAS), Mr. Sanjib K. Mohanty, Advocate with Mr. Amit Acharya and Mr. Subesh K. Sahoo, Advocates for R-2 & R-3/ Sports Authority of India. Ms. Shyel Trehan and Ms. Bhagya K. Yadav, Advocates on behalf of Dr. Batra, President of IOA. Mr. D. N. Goburdhun, Sr. Advocate, Mr. Ruchir Mishra and Mr. Hemant Phalpher, Mr. Hrishikesh Baruah, Mr. Parth Goswami, Mr. Pranav Jain, Ms. Apoorva Jain, Mr. Sidhant Kaushik Advocates for R-4 (IOA). Mr. Chetan Anand and Mr. Akash Srivastava, Advocates for R-5 & 12. Mr. Premtosh Mishra, Mr. Yojna Goyal and Ms. Rytim Vohra, Advocate for Respondent No. 8. Mr. Aditya Vikram Sing, and Mr. Kushagra Sinha, Advocate for R10/NRAI. Mr. Vanshdeep Dalmia and Mr. Suchakshu Jain, Advocates for R-11. Mr. Vishnu Sharma, Advocate with Ms. Anupama Sharma and Mr. Binay Kumar, Advocates for R13. Mr. Akshay Ringe, Mr. Kartikeya Rastogi and Ms. Megha Mukerjee, Advocates for the applicant. Mr. Pathak Rakesh Kaushik and Advocate for applicant in CM Appl. 1401-1403/2022. Mr. Abhay Raj Varma, Ms. Priyanka Ghosh and Ms. Vidhi Jain, Advocates for Indian Golf Union in CM No.47222/2021. Mr. Dayan Krishnan, Senior Advocate with Mr. Anuj Tyagi, Mr. Ankur Chawla, Ms. Maitry Kakade, Advocates for KKFI in CM Appls.43266- 68/2021 Mr. Pranav Sapra, Advocate for applicant in CM Appl.11091/2022. Mr. Sudhir Nandrajog, Senior. Advocate with Mr. Pranav Sapra, Advocate in CM No.11091/2022. Mr. Jayant Mehta, Sr. Adv with Mr. Pranav Sapra, Advocate in CM No.11091/2022.
*Judge, who authored the judgment
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.