[General Code of Conduct] Term ‘athlete’ includes coach along with staff; Delhi High Court refuses to interfere with suspension order passed by Paralympic Committee

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A petition was filed challenging the order dated 07-02-2018 passed by the Paralympic Committee of India (respondent 1) suspending the petitioner herein from participating and him being sponsored in any sports event organized by Respondent 1 for three years with effect from 20-01-2018 and directing that recommendations be made to the Haryana Sports Department, where the Petitioner is working, to take strict disciplinary action against him. Subramonium Prasad, J., did not interfere with the impugned order as the writ courts while exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 should loathe to interfere with the decision taken by the Authority because the petitioner has not been able to demonstrate how the procedure adopted by the Disciplinary Committee is not reasonable or fair or is violative of principles of natural justice.

The Petitioner is an Arjuna Awardee and is a Commonwealth and Asian Games medalist swimmer and was also appointed swimming team coach for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Respondent 1 is a Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) which is the body interested in organizing State and National level sports meet for the disabled. The Petitioner was a coach in the XVI-National Para Swimming Championship who gave a camera to one of his associates and asked him to make videos of female swimmers during the event. The parents of swimmers objected to this, and the person was stopped from making such videos. However, it is stated that later on, the Petitioner continued to make the videos of female swimmers with a camera on tripod despite objections from the parents and on being called by the Chairman asking him for explanation, but the Petitioner misbehaved with the Chairman.

On receiving the complaints, the Petitioner was detained by the Police and was later released after he agreed to delete the photographs and videos made by him and his associate, but he allegedly threatened and gave interviews to various TV Channels accusing the Chairman and other officer bearers of PCI by levelling allegations against them. A show cause notice was sent to explain his position regarding the complaints received, and a reply denying allegations was sent. However, the Disciplinary Committee, thereafter, passed the impugned Order dated 07-02-2018 suspending the petitioner from participating and his being sponsored in any sports event organized by Respondent 1 for three years w.e.f. 20-01-2018.

The Court noted that Clause 19 of the Bye-laws prescribes the General Code of Conduct for athletes participating in the Paralympic event. It is stated that the Petitioner was a coach. It cannot be said that the Petitioner who was a coach need not follow the General Code of Conduct. The General Code of Conduct must equally apply to athletes and to all the members of the team, including the support staff of athletes and coaches. The discipline of the event cannot be permitted to be broken by any person who is participating in the event either as an athlete or as a coach or as a support staff of an athlete. Rule 19 would, therefore, apply on all fours.

The Court further noted that Clause 19.2 specifically provides for Code of Conduct for Coaches and Team Officials and Clause 19.7 deals with Disciplinary Sanctions. It cannot be said that there is no power to suspend a coach for any misbehavior or use of any uncivilized language during the event. The rules regarding the Code of Conduct cannot be read in a straight jacket formula which will promote indiscipline by a coach or any support staff of an athlete. Any such interpretation which would go against the very purpose of providing a Code of Conduct cannot be permissible. Therefore, the word athlete used in Clause 19.1.6 would mean to include a coach and a support staff of an athlete who participates in the games and all of them cannot be permitted to misbehave or use of uncivilized language or indulge in unlawful acts or act against the interest of Committee and welfare and development of Para Sports. Any other interpretation given to the interpretation of the Rules would go against the spirit of Clause 19 of the Bye-laws.

The Court concluded that when a statute/law/bye-law gives discretion to an administration to make a decision, the scope of judicial review remains limited and it is not permissible unless the decision is contrary to law or has been taken without considering the relevant factors or where irrelevant factors have been considered or the decision is one which a prudent man would not have arrived at. Thus, there were complaints against the Petitioner, who was a coach, regarding the videos and photographs of female swimmers taken by him and his associate. The Petitioner behaved rudely with people who were there in the stadium. The Petitioner has abused the Chairman and the officials of Respondent 1 and also indulged in giving press interviews bringing down the interests of Respondent 1. Therefore, the decision taken by the Disciplinary Committee of Respondent 1 cannot be said to be unfair or unreasonable warranting interference under Article 226.

[Prasanta Karmakar v Paralympic Committee of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7329, decided on 20-11-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Varun Singh, Mr. Amit Kumar Sharma, Mr. Satayam Singh, Ms. Mudrika Tomar, Ms. Alankriti Dwivedi, Mr. Rohan Chandra, Mr. Sanjeev Gupta, Ms. Aarti Singh and Mr. Diwas Kumar, Advocates for petitioner

Mr. Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Advocate for R-1. Mr. Vikram Jetly, CGSC with Ms. Shreya Jetly, Advocate for R-3.

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