Delhi High Court: In a case wherein the petitioner challenged the orders passed by the respondents, being Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India; and Sports Authority of India, whereby the petitioner was relieved from the position of Chief Coach from the ongoing National Coaching Camp for Indian Kabaddi Team (Boys) for Asian Games 2023, Subramonium Prasad, J.*, opined that the order disassociating the petitioner from the position of the Chief Coach during the enquiry by the Internal Complaints Committee (‘ICC’) was not illegal or irrational nor suffered from procedural irregularities as the nature of the allegation in the complaint were serious. Thus, this Court held that it was not inclined to interfere with the decision arrived at by the respondents.
The petitioner was an Arjuna Awardee and was selected to coach the Indian Kabaddi Team (Boys) for Asian Games, 2023 to be held at China. A FIR was registered against the petitioner by a girl for the offence under Sections 354-A, 354-D and 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and under Section 12 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’). The complainant, in the FIR, alleged harassment and stated that the petitioner used to ask her to meet him and also threatened her that if she did not meet him, then he would make sure the complainant would not be selected in the team. An affidavit was later filed by the complainant and her father, which stated that the complaint against the petitioner was lodged due to some misunderstanding.
A closure report was filed by the Police, and the complaint was referred to the ICC of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (‘AKFI’), the report of which was yet to be received. During the pendency of the complaint and the report, the Sports Authority of India ordered to relieve the petitioner from the position of chief coach from the ongoing National Coaching Camp which was being undertaken for sending the Indian Kabaddi Team for Asian Games.
It was contented that the petitioner was a chief coach of the men’s Kabaddi team and had nothing to do with the women’s Kabaddi team. The petitioner submitted that the complainant was not even probable. The petitioner pleaded that the decision of AKFI to refer the case to ICC should be struck down and the order relieving the petitioner from the post of chief coach of men’s Kabaddi team deserved to be set aside.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court opined that in view of the fact that there was a complaint against the coach and the allegations were serious in nature, including the one under the POCSO Act, the decision of the Sports Authority of India to relieve the petitioner from the post of Chief Coach could not be said to be arbitrary. The Court further opined that “the fact that the complainant and her father had filed affidavits stating that the complaint against the petitioner was lodged due to misunderstanding, couldnot vitiate the order passed by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to disassociate the petitioner with training and preparations of the National Team for Kabaddi until the report of the ICC was received.
The Court opined that “the scope of interference by the Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution in administrative decisions is narrow. The Courts only have to see as to whether the decision which has been arrived at is just and reasonable and is not perverse. The Courts do not substitute its own decision to the one arrived at by the authorities”. The Court relied on Municipal Council, Neemuch v. Mahadeo Real Estate, (2019) 10 SCC 738 (‘Mahadeo Real Estate Case’), wherein the Supreme Court observed that the Court was only concerned with the manner in which decisions were taken, and the extent of the inherent duty to act fairly would vary from case to case. The Supreme Court in Mahadeo Real Estate Case (supra) opined that “the sweep of power under Article 226 may be wide enough to quash unreasonable orders. If a decision is so arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could have ever arrived at it, the same is liable to be struck down by a writ court. If the decision cannot rationally be supported by the materials on record, the same may be regarded as perverse”
Thus, the Court held that the Order disassociating the petitioner from the position of the Chief Coach during the enquiry by the Internal Complaints Committee could not be said to be illegal, irrational and it also did not suffer from procedural irregularities. The Court dismissed the petition and further held that there were serious allegations against the petitioner for the offence under Sections 354-A, 354-D and 506 of the IPC and under Section 12 of the POCSO Act, thus, this Court was not inclined to interfere with the decision arrived at by the respondents.
[A v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6172, Judgement dated 26-09-2023]
*Judgement authored by — Justice Subramonium Prasad
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Dr. Ramesh Gautam, Senior Advocate with Dr. Malika Gautam and Dr. Kshitij Gautam, Advocates.
For the Respondents: Mr. Anil Soni, CGSC with Mr. Devvrat Yadav, Mr. Archil Misra, Ms. Nandita Rao, Mr. Kunal Parkash, Mr. Amit Peswani and Mr. Jasraj Singh, Advocates.