HC asks selection committee to consider Tejaswin Shankar for CWG 2022 based on merit
The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the Selection Committee to consider on merits the case of athlete Tejaswin Shankar, who has been excluded from participating in the 2022 CWG.
High Jumper Tejaswin Shankar, who had moved to the Delhi High Court after being excluded from participating in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, was shown some hope on Wednesday. The Court directed the Selection Committee to consider the high jumper on his merits.
The high court said Shankar's non-participation in the interstate championship shall not be the sole criteria for rejecting him and observed that he is a "medal prospect" and there should not be an ego issue.
Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice and sought a response of the Athletics Federation of India(AFI), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Selection Committee of the AFI for the senior category on the petition.
The plea sought to direct the AFI not to disqualify Shankar from participating at the CWG 2022 based on non-attendance at the Interstate Senior Athletics Championships, and be allowed to participate based on having met the qualifying standard at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships.
"These are record holders and you don't let them go... He (Shankar) is a medal prospect. Let it not be an ego problem," the court said.
The court was informed by advocate Parth Goswami, representing AFI and Selection Committee, that the final list of athletes has already been prepared and submitted to Indian Olympics Association (IOA).
He further said that the Selection Committee is scheduled to meet today.
To this, the court directed that "the Selection Committee shall consider the case of Shankar on merits of his jumps and his non-participation in the interstate championship shall not be the sole criteria for rejecting his candidature".
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan and advocate Malak Bhatt, representing Shankar, submitted that he has been excluded despite being the national high jump record holder (2.29m) and being the only Indian to have met the AFI qualification standard of 2.27m with a jump of 2.27m as recently as June 10, 2022, while winning a gold medal at the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championship 2022 in Eugene, Oregon in the USA.
The plea said that Shankar is also part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) for the last two years which is a flagship Olympic development scheme under the Ministry of Sports and has been receiving a scholarship for the same.
It said that the petitioner has not been considered by the AFI for failing to take permission to be exempted from attending the 2022 interstate championships which cannot be a disqualifying criterion.
The counsel said Shankar had sought exemption from interstate championships as they clashed with the NCAA championship and had informed the chief national coach through WhatsApp messages.
"The petitioner is at present, indisputably, the best Indian high jumper in the world, and on the basis of current form is undoubtedly a medal contender at the CWG 2022. In fact, only two high jumpers (both non-Indian) who will prospectively be competing at the CWG 2022 have a better jump than him this year," the counsel submitted.
The plea said it is in the interest of the nation that Shankar be allowed to participate in the CWG 2022, based on his merit, as established from his jumping record, both recent and otherwise.
Shankar, who has been studying at Kansas University since 2018, won the NCAA championship last week with a best jump of 2.27m. The jump was well above the CWG qualifying standard of 2.25m mark. The performance, however, failed to please the Indian federation, which decided against including him for CWG selection while clarifying that mid-June's National Inter-State Championships in Chennai was the last event for qualification.
Among other notable absentees from the selection list was long jumper Jeswin Aldrin, who was ignored after dip in performance post his big 8.37m jump at the Federation Cup in Kerala.
Earlier last week while announcing the 37-member CWG squad, AFI also claimed that Tejaswin never asked for his selection or for an exemption from the recently-concluded Inter-State Championship.
"It was clearly mentioned on the website this (Inter States) was the last event where one could try to register the qualification standard for the CWG and Worlds. Tejaswin did not want to be selected. Mr Shankar did not ask to be exempted from the Inter-State Championships. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA," said Sumariwalla.
Following the squad announcement, Shankar made another plea for a selection trial in California, where a national camp is likely ahead of the World Championships in Oregon next month. However, AFI denied his request saying no further inclusion to the squad is possible for both Shankar and Aldrin.