The Delhi High Court on Wednesday placed Hockey India under a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) after observing that the federation has violated the National Sports Code.
The Court ruling came on a petition filed by former India player Aslam Sher Khan, who had challenged Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra's appointment as life member of Hockey India. The High Court held that HI's appointment of Batra as its life member and Elena Norman as CEO were illegal and thus the administrative setup of Hockey India was erroneous or illegal. Now in a space of seven days, two national federations have been put under CoA as the Supreme Court, on May 18, had appointed a three-member committee to manage the affairs of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for violation of Sports Code.
Making a reference to the Apex Court ruling, the HC constituted a committee, which will be headed by former Supreme Court judge AR Dave and will have former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and ex-Indian hockey team captain Zafar Iqbal as members. "....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 18th May 2022, in the case of another NSF in All India Football Federation...," the HC said.
"...the administrative setup of R-2 (Hockey India) is, erroneously or illegally constituted because of the Life President and Life Members," the HC bench of Justices Najmi Wajiri and Swarana Kanta Sharma said in its order. "The Government of India cannot grant recognition to a NSF whose constitution is not in consonance with the Sports Code. The posts of Life President, Life Member in the NSF are illegal so is the post of CEO in the Managing Committee. These posts are struck-down."
A Hockey India source said the sports body has called an emergency meeting on May 30. "We are yet to read the full judgement but we have already called an emergency meeting on May 30 in New Delhi to decide our future course of action. So we won't comment anything further on the issue," the source said. The HC said all such references in Constitution/Memorandum of Association of Hockey India will have to be removed. "As noted herein above, the mere presence of some persons in a Society as a such Member or in a meeting, albeit without voting rights can influence independent decision-making and election process.
"Till such time it is brought in consonance with the Sports Code and as interpreted by this court, its affairs cannot be left in the hands of persons who have no legitimacy. "In the absence of a Managing Committee, elected under a constitution strictly in consonance with the Sports Code and the court judgments, the interests of hockey, its development and the sentiments of the hockey-players, aspirants and enthusiasts should not suffer." The development comes weeks after the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry against Batra for alleged misuse of Rs 35 lakh of Hockey India funds. It was alleged in a complaint that Rs 35 lakh of Hockey India funds was used for personal benefits of Batra.
The HC empowered the CoA to recover whatever amount of money Batra owes to HI from the sports administrator, while asking the panel to bring in accountability. As far as HI chief executive officer Elena is concerned, the court ruled that recovery of money "against the current CEO would not be warranted" as she is not an office bearer with voting rights and has assisted the federation only as an administrator. "Regarding retention of the services of the CEO as a consultant, the CoA may decide," the HI order said.
The court also said the CoA would be at a liberty to make all appropriate arrangements, for the governance of Hockey India until fresh elections are held in terms of the Sports Code conforming constitution. Besides, it has also been asked to "facilitate the holding of elections and the handing over of the affairs to a democratically elected body in terms of its constitution which will be adopted, preferably within a period of 20 weeks from the date the learned CoA members give their assent."