Delhi High Court on Varsha Gautham: Indian Olympic Association has final say

After a long saga of fighting with her federation for a spot on the Asian Games team, the Delhi High Court verdict on Varsha Gautham now comes as a bit of a respite for her. The legal body has now directed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take a call regarding the 49er FX sailing team which will be travelling to Jakarta.

The decision comes after a petition that was filed by Varsha, who won the Silver at the recent Asian Sailing Championships, after she was denied traveling for the Asian Games and Ekta Yadav was chosen ahead of her.

Also read: Ace sailor Varsha Gautham alleges irregularities in Asian Games Selection Policy

The Yachting Association of India (YAI) had its stance clear. Ekta had emerged victorious in the National Selection Trials held at Chennai beating out Varsha. Varsha’s point of contention was that the YAI had not made it sufficiently clear that the Chennai trials would be the only event upon which selection would be based.

Ekta Yadav had finished with a Bronze at the Asian Sailing Championships behind Varsha. According to Varsha, the selection policy which had been circulated by YAI had mentioned that the Asian Championships would be considered when it came to sending the final names for the Asian Games.

Also read: Why does the Federation need to put a stopper on success | By Varsha Gautham

Even though the selection policy by the YAI hints at a possible external committee being appointed to review the results after the Asian Sailing Championships, the court conceeded that the failure to appoint this committee ’does not vitiate the selection process’. But, it said that it wasn’t at the best position to judge the merit of the two sailors in contention and has called upon the IOA to have a final say in the matter.

Ironically, this decision and transferance of power to the IOA comes a day after nine athletes were axed from the list of more than 520 athletes who were earlier slated to go to the Asian Games. The contingents of Sambo and Triathlon were scrapped after the IOA admitted that the respective federations had misrepresented facts to get their athletes on board for Jakarta. This actually raised a lot of questions regarding IOA’s cross checking and screening mechanism and its understanding of merit-based selection. It remains to be seen whether the federations at fault will have any action taken against them.

Coming back to Varsha, the quote noted that

“It is apparent from the record – and it is also not disputed – that the selection committee had considered only the Selection Event (Regatta conducted in Chennai) for selecting the sports person to represent India. It is also ex facie apparent that the said criteria was not in conformity with the Selection Policy. . . . Apparently, YAI realised the aforesaid error and the Selection Committee met once again on June 30, to consider the results of the Asian Sailing Championship.”

It also agreed that the selection committee, “was of the view that the performance of Ekta Yadav and Shaila Charles were more consistent.”

It continued, “The IOA must consider the results of the Nomination Event (Asian championship) and the minutes of the meeting held on June 30, if not considered earlier. It will be open for the petitioner to move IOA for the said purpose.”