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Home Others Autonomy in Sports – How much is too much interference?

Autonomy in Sports – How much is too much interference?

The Supreme Court of India in an appeal filed by the Maharashtra Archery Association against a judgement passed by the High Court of Delhi, set aside the elections of the Archery Association of India and quashed the constitution of the Archery Association of India amended by Dr. S Y Qureshi, a Court appointed Administrator for the Archery Association of India.

The Delhi High Court had appointed Dr. S Y Qureshi, a former Chief Election Commissioner by an order on 10.08.2017 as an Administrator for the Archery Association of India to conduct elections and thereafter the elected body will make amendments to the constitution of the Archery Association of India to come in line with the National Sports Development Code 2011.

Against this order, the Maharashtra Archery Association, Kerala Archery Association, and the Archery Association of India all went under appeal before the Supreme Court of India as the Archery Association of India had already made the required amendments which were in line with the National Sports Development Code 2011.

The Supreme Court of India on 4.12.2017 had approved the amended constitution of the Archery Association of India and had directed the Administrator Dr. S Y Qureshi to conduct the elections of the Archery Association of India in terms of the Court approved constitution as amended by the Archery Association of India within a period of 4 weeks. The Administrator instead of conducted the election within 4 weeks, decided to make an entirely new constitution of the Archery Association without any approval from the stakeholders or the members of the Archery Association of India.

This came as a shock to the Archery Association of India, its members, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and also to the Indian Olympic Association.

The Administrator continued its mandate but instead of 4 weeks, conducted an election after 9 months that also on a constitution which is neither approved by the Archery Association of India or by the Supreme Court of India who was seisen of the matter. This election was challenged by some members of the Archery Association of India and by the Indian Olympic Association. Since there was no stay against the election, the Administrator proceeded with the election and Mr. BVP Rao was elected as the president on the strength of the Administrators constitution. Both the Indian Olympic Association and the World Archery did not grant any recognition to the newly elected office bearers of the Archery Association of India.

The verdict of the Apex Court is a big victory for all the National Sports Federations and the Indian Olympic Association”

The Apex court was beyond convinced that the Administrator had no power to fiddle with the constitution of the Archery Association of India and also there was no reason to delay the election which were mandated to be conducted within a period of 4 weeks. The Apex Court has held that all steps taken by the Administrator must be treated as null and void and non est in law.

The verdict of the Apex Court is a big victory for all the National Sports Federations and the Indian Olympic Association who have an obligation from the parent bodies to protect their autonomy at all costs. This was one of those rare cases where an outsider who without any mandate under the garb of an Administrator tried to interfere and almost succeeded with the control of internal functioning of a National Sports Federation.

The Apex Court has also strengthened the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India by relying upon Damyanti Naranga V. Union of India and G.K.Ghose V. E.X. Joseph to conclude that the right to form an association included the right to its continuance and any law altering the composition of the association compulsorily will be a breach of the right to form an association. This is effect means that any amendments that can be made in a constitution of a National Sports Federation can only be made by its members and in a manner provided in the constitution of that body.

This is exactly what the Olympic Charter and the International Federations mandates to their members like Archery Association of India and the Indian Olympic Association i.e. to maintain autonomy and resist any kind of outside interference. This judgement will take the judicial scope of autonomy in NSF’s in the right direction.

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