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Delhi HC directs IOA to explain why it dissolved wrestling’s ad hoc body

The Delhi high court on Tuesday directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to file an affidavit indicating the circumstances in which it dissolved the ad hoc committee for wrestling last month.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) logo

“Why did you revoke the ad hoc body? Why did you do it? Just one fine day you got up and decided that we will remove the ad hoc body. Tell me what is the reason. You file an affidavit. Who takes these decisions? The director who takes the decision will have to be personally present,” a bench of justice Sachin Datta said to the lawyer who appeared for the IOA.

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“The IOA is also directed to file an affidavit indicating the circumstances in which the office order dated March 18, 2024 came to be issued whereby the ad hoc committee appointed on December 27, 2023 has been dissolved. Let the director concerned of the IOA also be present before the court on the next date of hearing,” the court said in its order.

The court was considering an application filed by four wrestlers including Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia after the IOA dissolved the ad hoc committee on March 18 saying that there was “no further need” for it to run. In its office order, the IOA had stated that the decision to dissolve the ad hoc committee had come after the lifting of the ban on WFI by the United World Wrestling (UWW) and the successful completion of selection trials by the ad hoc committee.

The ad hoc committee was constituted by the IOA on the directions of the union sports ministry on December 27 after the ministry suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

In the application, the wrestlers also including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and her husband Satyawart Kadian had sought directions to the union sports ministry to not revoke the suspension of WFI during the pendency of its plea to declare the federation’s December 21, 2023 elections as illegal. Besides this, the application filed by advocate Siddharth Nayak had also sought the appointment of a one-man committee to take over the administration of WFI in the interest of justice.

The court on Tuesday further directed the centre to file an affidavit indicating its “clear stand” as regards managing WFI’s affairs after the dissolution of the IOA’s ad-hoc committee, saying that its March 28 affidavit was “vague” and did not deal with salient aspects of the matter. The centre’s affidavit, justice Datta underlined, failed to specify if the WFI’s December 23 suspension continued to subsist or not, circumstances that led to the dissolution of the ad hoc committee and the person who would be in charge of the federation’s affairs persuant to the disbandment.

“The Centre cannot be allowed to be evasive. They have to take a clear stand. Today, I want to know what is the system of administration and management (of the WFI) that they have set up,” Justice Datta said, adding that important decisions have to be taken by the federation in relation to the sport of wrestling, including selection of players, and a clear stand of the Centre is required in the matter.

“Unfortunately, the said affidavit is vague and does not deal with the salient aspects of the matter, in particular the affidavit does not take position as to i. Whether the suspension of the WFI vide order dated December 23 continues to subsist or not. ii. Circumstances which impend the ad hoc body to be disbanded. iii. Who is in charge of the WFI after disbanding of the ad hoc body constituted. At the request of the counsel for the union of India, an opportunity is granted to the ministry to file an affidavit taking a clear stand on the aforesaid issue. Let the same be filed within a period of 1 week from today. The joint secretary concerned of the ministry shall join the proceedings on the next date of hearing through video conferencing,” the court said in its order.

To be sure, the union sports ministry in the affidavit filed through its standing counsel Anil Soni while referring to IOAs March 18 office order regarding the dissolution of the ad hoc committee had urged the court to pass orders as it may deem fit in the manner.

On Tuesday, the wrestlers, appearing through senior advocate Rahul Mehra, had submitted that it was imperative for an administrator be appointed to run the affairs of the suspended federation, which was rendered “headless” with the disbandment of the ad-hoc committee.

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