In an interim relief, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the status quo and said the Delhi High Court-appointed three-member Committee of Administrators (COA) will not take over the affairs of the Indian Olympic Association.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and C T Ravikumar took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the IOA, that the world sports body does not recognise any un-elected bodies like the CoA and consequently, India may be barred from taking part in international sports events.
"The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is a unit of the International Olympic Association and they have their own rules and according to them, if any national-level body like petitioner IOA here is represented by a non-elected body then it is treated as a third party interference," the law officer said.
Every country is bound by the rules of the international body, Mehta said, adding that the high court's intervention may or may not be for valid reasons which can be gone into by the bench at a later stage. "But the moment they (CoA) takes over, India stands almost 99 per cent chance of being suspended from participating in any Olympic and international event," the solicitor general said.
The CJI said that Justice Hima Kohli, the third judge of the bench, did not want to hear this case which originally arose from the Delhi High Court's order. The law officer said that the interim relief can be awarded by the two judges on the bench. "The counsel for the petitioner (IOA) and as well as the solicitor general submitted that by virtue of the present order (of the high court), there is a possibility of India losing the chance of participation in the Olympic and all international events.
"We direct the parties to maintain the status quo. It is made clear that the charge is not handed over to the CoA. We direct the matter to be listed before an appropriate bench on Monday (August 22)," the bench said in its order. Consequently, the Delhi High Court-appointed COA, comprising former Supreme Court judge Justice Anil R Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, and former Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup, will not be able to take IOA over.
Earlier in the day, the solicitor general sought an urgent hearing and said the appointment of the CoA may lead to the Association's suspension by the International Olympic Committee as happened in the case of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) recently. The Delhi High Court on August 16 ordered the setting up of a three-member CoA to manage the affairs of the IOA.
The high court had said the "persistent recalcitrance" of the IOA to comply with the Sports Code made it imperative that its affairs be put in the hands of the CoA. The high court had directed the executive committee of IOA to forthwith hand over the charge to the newly appointed committee and said that the members of the CoA will be assisted by three eminent sportspersons, namely, Shooter Olympian Abhinav Bindra, Long Jump Olympian Anju Bobby George, and Archer Olympian Bombayla Devi Laishram.
The IOA is recognised by the International Olympic Committee as the National Olympic Committee for India. The high court, which considered in detail the issues concerning the tenure of office bearers and voting rights, struck down the post of "Life President" and any such permanent post for an individual in the IOA for being illegal and said that the maximum term for the President and likewise to all Office Bearers and members of the EC has to be limited to 3 tenures as per the law. It had said that sportspersons, both men and women, should be included in the general and executive committees of the sports body.
The high court's order was passed on a petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra seeking strict compliance by the IOA and the National Sports Federations with the Sports Code and judicial dicta. "The history of persistent recalcitrance of the IOA for almost half a century to comply with the Sports Code, despite its consistent assurance to the Government, the societal concerns, and the larger public good, make it imperative that the IOA's affairs be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA)" it had said.
"Accordingly, persons of eminence from the fields of law, public administration, elections, and international relations are appointed as members of the CoA, to be assisted by eminent sportspersons, as Consultants," the court had ordered. It had directed the centre to not grant recognition or facilities to any sports bodies that do not comply with the sports code and further called for the implementation of "structural reforms" to remove the mismanagement in the sports bodies and to democratize these institutions.
The honorarium payable to the CoA members and facilities to be extended to them will be akin to what may be fixed by the Supreme Court in the case related to the All India Football Federation and for the moment, as interim honorarium, a deposit of Rs 3 lakh per month shall be made with each CoA member and Rs 1.5 lakh each with the consultant sportsperson, the high court had said.