Sports Law – Writ – Rio Olympics Games 2016 – Wrestling Federation of India – Men’s Freestyle Wrestling – Trials to select a wrestler to represent India – World Championship – A writ court will not interfere in the exercise of discretion of the national sports federation except where the discretion is shown to have been exercised in an arbitrary or capricious or perverse manner or contrary to settled principles or practices. After all power and responsibility go hand in hand.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE MANMOHAN
Date of Decision : 06th June, 2016
W.P.(C) 4514/2016 & CM APPLs. 18841/2016, 22426/2016
SUSHIL KUMAR ….. Petitioner Through Mr. Amit Sibal, Senior Advocate with Mr. Kaushik Moitra, Mr. Kumar Sudeep, Mr. Abhishek Malhotra, Mr. Namit Suri, Mr. Dron Parashar and Ms. Aahna Mehrotra, Advocates versus UNION OF INDIA & ORS ….. Respondents Through Ms. Monika Arora, CGSC with Mr. Jitendra Kumar Tripathi, Mr. Kushal Kumar and Mr. Harsh Ahuja, Advocates for R-1/UOI. Mr. Aditya Singh with Mr. Anshuman Tiwari, Advocates for R-2/IOA. Mr. Anil Grover with Ms. Noopur Singhal, Advocates for R-3/SAI. Mr. Pradeep Dewan, Senior Advocate with Ms. Anupam Dhingra, Advocate for R-4/WFI. Mr. Nidhesh Gupta, Senior Advocate with Mr. Tarun Gupta, Mr. Puneet Vrshney, Mr. Pramod Kumar, Mr. Arbind Yadav and Mr. Yasir Arafat, Advocates for R-5.
J U D G M E N T
1. Petitioner’s argument “All I am asking is a trial for Rio Games” makes interesting sound-bite, but the issue is whether this argument is legally tenable and in consonance with the facts of the case.
2. By way of the present writ petition, petitioner has challenged selection of respondent no.5 by respondent no.4-Wrestling Federation of India (hereinafter referred to as “respondent no. 4-WFI”) for the 74 kg Men’s Freestyle Wrestling event at the Rio Olympics Games 2016 commencing 5th August, 2016. It is pertinent to mention that respondent no.5 had secured a berth for India in the 74 kg men’s free-style category for the Olympics by winning a bronze medal in the World Championship 2015 held in Las Vegas in September, 2015. The trials to select a wrestler to represent India in the said event at the World Championship were held in July, 2015, in which the petitioner did not participate. While the petitioner states that he did not participate in the trial because he was nursing an injury, respondent no. 4- WFI and respondent no. 5 dispute the said fact.
ARGUMENTS ON BEHALF OF PETITIONER
3. Mr. Amit Sibal, learned senior counsel for petitioner stated that as a wrestler represents the country in international events, once the wrestler attains the qualifying position in the tournament, the wrestler merely secures a berth for the country and not for himself. He contended that the
National Sports Development Code, 2011
[for short “Code, 2011”] stipulates that trials have to be conducted for selecting athletes to represent India in major international sporting events. Consequently, according to him, even after the berth had been secured, a trial has to be held. In support of his contention, he relied upon the following portion of the Code, 2011 as well as guidelines dated 18th September, 2008 issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Department of Sports, Government of India:-
A) National Sports Development Code, 2011
“13. Selection Procedure
13.1 NSFs are primarily responsible for judicious selection of national teams for participation in major international events bases on merit and with the objective of enhancing national prestige and bringing glory to the country. As such the best sportspersons/team has to be chosen for representing the country.
13.2 The Selection Committee will be constituted by the Federation comprising of the President, the National Coach and eminent ex-sportspersons. The Government will appoint an Observer for priority and general category disciplines receiving financial grant, who will be associated with all the activities of the National Federation. It will be mandatory for the Federation to inform him or her about Selection Committee Meetings, important national and international competitions. The Government Observer will have to oversee the selection process in order to ensure that it is fair and transparent.”
B) Guidelines issued for more efficient management of coaching camps, selection of coaches & selection of athletes issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Department of Sports, Government of India:
3. SELECTION OF ATHLETES
(i) The selection of sportspersons for participation in major international events shall be the responsibility of National Sports Federations (NSF) concerned, and Government and the Sports Authority of India, will not have direct involvement in the selection process, except to ensure that it is fair and transparent.
(ii) The selection criteria/norms shall be clearly communicated by the NSFs to all concerned viz., players, coaches, Government Observers etc. well in advance and be put up on the website of the NSF concerned and also be forwarded to SAI and the Ministry to be put up on their respective websites.
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(v) In team events the Selection Trials should be held two months in advance and in the case of contact games, the selection trials should be held at least one month in advance of the competition event.”
4. Mr. Sibal pointed out that a Division Bench of this Court in
Indian Olympic Association Vs. Union of India, (2014) 212 DLT 389 (DB)
has upheld the legality and validity of the Code, 2011.
5. Mr. Sibal emphasised that selection of wrestlers for all other weight categories had been conducted in March 2016 excluding the category of 74 kg Men’s Freestyle event for which trials had been held thirteen months before the Rio Olympic Games 2016. He stated that no subsequent trials in the 74 kg category had been held to determine the current form of the athletes so as to assess who would be most likely to secure a medal at the Rio Olympic Games 2016.
6. According to him, the reason for non-holding of trials is that respondent no. 4-WFI is offended due to petitioner’s non-participation in the Pro Wrestling League, 2015.
7. Mr. Sibal contended that the selection criteria adopted by respondent no.4-WFI according to its own admission was ‘discreet’, i.e., contrary to fair and transparent manner as required by Code, 2011. He submitted that a Coordinate Bench of this Court in Amit Kumar Dhankar Vs. Union of India, W.P.(C) 3914/2014 decided on 3 rd July, 2014 has held that the Code, 2011 is enforceable against respondent no.4-WFI and that selection through trial is mandatory. The relevant portion of the judgment relied upon by Mr. Sibal is reproduced hereinbelow:-