NEW DELHI: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has, for years, cited the autonomy and non-interference provided in the Olympic charter as the convenient reasons behind thwarting any of the government’s attempts to muddle in its internal functioning. Now, in the ongoing legal battle in the Delhi High Court involving the country’s 57 national sports federations (NSFs) and their subsequent withdrawal of the provisional annual recognition, the IOA has returned to its tried and tested formula of invoking the Olympic charter to safeguard the interests of NSFs, which form part of its electoral college.
The IOA, which calls itself the “apex body” of NSFs and the custodian of their rights, has come up with the same argument in its latest communication with the sports ministry, recounting and reminding the sports authorities of the 14-month period between December 2012 and February 2014 when the IOA was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for following the Indian government’s Sports Code 2011 in its elections for office-bearers and not following the provisions of the charter, resulting in its derecognition by the IOC.
Continuing in the same vein, the IOA, on Monday, wrote a detailed letter to sports minister Kiren Rijiju in the context of the NSFs’ derecognition, requesting him for a review of the sports code 2011, which, according to the IOA, can’t be implemented in “letter and spirit” as some of its clauses are “outdated” and “impractical” and should not be insisted upon. A similar view was also reserved by the IOA for the draft sports code for good governance 2017. The ministry has sought information from the NSFs in response to its exhaustive questionnaire, purely based on the NSFs’ code compliance in its constitution, bye-laws and memorandum of association (MoA). However, the IOA and NSFs aren’t happy with the development. “As the draft sports code for good governance 2017 is required to be reviewed, the implementation of the sports code 2011 in letter and spirit is also required to be reviewed and clauses which are impractical and outdated may not be insisted upon,” the IOA’s letter, signed by president Narinder Dhruv Batra and secretary general Rajeev Mehta, read.
“The purpose of the sports code is to develop sports in the country and not to create hurdles in its development. There are few points/expectations in the sports code which are acting as an impediment in development of sports in the country, which are requested to be discussed for necessary resolutions so that we can meet our ambitions for being in the top-10 medal winners in/by 2028 Olympics. The age and tenure restrictions are also a big impediment in Indian representation in their respective International Federations (IFs). A survey was done in 2016 and it was noted that out of 38 Olympic sports, only four followed age and tenure and three followed either age or tenure and the remaining 31 didn’t follow any age or tenure restrictions. It takes time to build relationships with the IFs and, by the time we reach somewhere, we are forced to go into break by either tenure or age. If India needs to grow stronger in sports and needs to have a say, then Indian representation in IOC, IOC Committees and Commissions and IFs is very important. Hence we will also request for discussion on age and tenure restrictions.”
“To discuss this issue further, we request to kindly allow the IOA’s two-member delegation comprising of president IOA and secretary general for a meeting with your good self and other government officers you may like to invite. In the interim, we request you to please recall the order dated August 7 (seeking code compliance report from the NSFs through a set of questionnaires,” the letter stated.
The IOA wants the government to revert back to its old formula of granting annual recognition to the NSFs based on the suo-moto declaration of information on their respective websites, which it introduced in February 2015. “In 2015, the government issued orders for suo-moto declaration of various information on the websites by each NSFs. Based on the above declaration, the NSFs were being granted annual recognition. Similarly, for the year 2020, the government initially issued an order granting provisional annual recognition until September 2020. The present system of grant of annual recognition based on the suo-moto declaration on the website may be resorted to. The subsequent annual recognition will be automatic in respect of federations which submit annual reports, audited accounts and corresponding documents,” the IOA stated.
“In IOA, we are wondering why such an exercise is being undertaken when NSFs were till recently complying to the sports code and were being given annual recognition. However, in few cases, there were exceptions who were not granted annual recognition based on the suo-moto declarations,” it added.
The letter informed that with regards to the autonomy of sports, the government had observed that the draft sports code 2017 was likely to be taken as direct affront on the autonomy and freedom of the IOA and NSFs and, in view of the above, the government decided to hold the draft back. “The government also noted that the draft sports code 2017 deals only with regulations and governance of sports organisations but it fails to provide for strategies and means to move sports bodies, state governments and private investments towards attaining the twin objective of spreading the culture for sports and excellence in sports. It was also observed that the draft provides for a “One Size Fit All” regulation and management of all sports. After having discussions with all the stakeholders, government re-examined the sports code 2017 in the context of the national sports policy, India’s international commitments, present stage of development of different disciplines of sports and available sports infrastructure and noted that the sports code 2017 is not in sync with the India’s international obligations and national sports policy. It was also observed by the government that the sports code 2017 does not meet the present requirement as well as future aspirations of Indian sports,” the letter read.
The IOA also argued that since sports is a ‘State’ subject, the code can’t be imposed on the state units of NSFs. “All the NSFs’ are very much positive and hoping that you may not allow in any manner compromise on the autonomy of the IOA and NSFs and that the autonomy of the NSFs will be maintained at all cost.”
The IOA also requested the ministry to postpone the conduct of the national championships by all NSFs during the current year. “Due to the present pandemic in the country, NSFs may not be able to hold the national championships during the current year. Therefore, it’s requested that as per the sports code 2011, whereby the NSFs are required to hold regular national championships in all categories both for men and women, may not be enforced while considering annual recognition for the year 2021.”
The sports code talks about the basic principle of good governance in sports which includes age and tenure restrictions, holding of timely elections in fair, transparent and democratic manner, representation of athletes, implementation of RTI act and suo-moto declaration of various information on websites.

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