Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, May 27, 2022: Observing that the Government cannot grant recognition to a National Sports Federation whose constitution is not in consonance with the Sports Code, the Delhi High Court has held that it would be in the public interest that affairs of Hockey India be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA).

While dealing with a petition seeking transparency in the affairs of the National Sport Federation for hockey, the Division Bench of Justice Najmi Waziri and Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma opined that the 1975 Circular, the 2001 Guidelines, the Sports Code and the judgment of the Courts, govern sports administration in India. They collectively constitute the law on the subject and no variation of the same, to the detriment of sports-persons or to sports administration, is permissible. 

The petitioner in the present case was a former Olympian. As a senior player and as a concerned citizen, he desired that the management of hockey in the country should run according to the rules and the guidelines laid-down by the Government of India. He further contended that there should be transparency in the affairs of the National Sports Federation for hockey viz. Hockey India- second respondent. 

He was also concerned of the issue that the continued presence of certain persons as office bearers or on certain posts such as Life President, Life Member and CEO were unwarranted and illegal and the same be struck down as not being in consonance with the Sports Code, as had already been held by this court in Mahipal Singh vs. UOI. 

Thus, the petitioner filed the present petition seeking issue of certiorari writ for quashing Articles 2.1.3, 3.0, 4.1, 5.13, 5.14, 6.6.1 of the second respondent’s MOA whereby the posts of Life Member, CEO and Life President have been created, being in blatant contravention of the NSCI, Circular 1975 and 2001 Guidelines, as illegal and unsustainable. Further it prayed to issue the writ of mandamus in order to appoint an impartial administrator or ad- hoc committee of eminent person to administer the affairs and oversee the day to day functioning and working of the Hockey India until its MOA is amended and fresh elections in accordance with the Model Election Guidelines under the NSCI are undertaken. 

The Court opined that fairness on the play-field, admirable skills of players, unity of purpose, team-work and coordination, etc. are qualities and values which any sport, played fairly, imparts and instills in society. It is this spirit that is even reflected in the Objectives of the Sports Code, the Court noted.  

Thus, in view of the above the Court held that the administrative set- up of second respondent was constituted in an erroneous and illegal manner. It was further observed that the posts of Life President, Life Member in the NSF are illegal, so is the post of CEO in the Managing Committee. These posts were struck-down. All such references in the Constitution/Memorandum of Association of the second respondent will have to be removed, the Court remarked. 

It was also noted that it would be in the public interest that its affairs be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as has been directed by the Supreme Court on May 18, 2022, in the case of another NSF in All India Football Federation vs. Rahul Mehra & Ors.  It was further observed that the third respondent, the Live President, was fully aware of the fact that the post of Live President and Live Member in a NSF is illegal. It was specifically intimated by the Government of India, yet when hockey team was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and was granted prompt recognition by the Government of India within a couple of days thereof, third respondent went ahead and had himself appointed as Life Member of Hockey India, the Court stated. 

Additionally, the Court was of the view that the illegal Post of Life President or Life Member cannot be the stepping-stone for any other position or benefit elsewhere, be it nationally (including in the Indian Olympic Association) or in international bodies. If the third respondent benefitted, then such benefit or position shall end right away, the Court observed.  Thus, the petition was allowed. 

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