Delhi High Court issues notice to ministry, WFI on wrestlers' plea

Justice Sachin Datta listed the matter for further hearing on 7 March and sought a response from all parties by then

Delhi High Court (photo: IANS)
Delhi High Court (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

The Delhi High Court, on Monday issued notice to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the ad-hoc committee of the sports body on a plea moved by wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Satyawrat Kadiyan challenging the WFI circular to conduct selection trials for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament.

Justice Sachin Datta listed the matter for further hearing on 7 March and sought a response from all parties by then. He also gave time to the Union government’s lawyer for its response.

The plea sought a direction to the federation to "cease and desist" from conducting the national trials as notified through its circulated issued on 26 February. The plea also sought to direct the Union government and the sports ministry to make the wrestling federation compliant with the National Sports Development Code, 2011, and for conducting the national selection trials for all international events under the Court's supervision and monitoring.

The plea by the petitioners states that the Union government, on 7 January, had restrained WFI from organising any activity and competitions organised by it would be treated as unsanctioned and unrecognised.

The plea states that under no circumstances can the wrestling federation be construed to be a “legal, fair and unbiased body” to conduct free and fair national trials for international sports events, including the Asian Championships and World Championships.

WFI had held its elections on 21 December 2023, but immediately after the elections, the ministry issued an order restraining the WFI executive committee from carrying out any activities related to managing the daily functions of the federation. In the same order, the ministry had constituted an ad-hoc committee to manage and control the affairs of the WFI, including the selection of athletes, entries for the participation of sportspersons in international events and holding sports activities, with immediate effect, until further orders. The order still stands.

The petitioners have sought direction to the ad-hoc committee to continue to look after the affairs of WFI or appoint an administrator, preferably a retired judge of either the SC or HC to take over the management of the WFI to ensure that the Olympic Association of India follows a time-bound proposed road map to restructure and reconstitute the WFI.

The plea notes that the WFI elections were a violation of the National Sports Code. It also sought court’s directive towards federation to “cease and desist” from taking any decisions regarding wrestling in the country.

“The petitioners would like to place on record that apart from them, there are many other athletes/wrestlers who are also facing similar harassment owing to their upright/honest stand against respondent no. 2/WFI and its officials over the illegalities by respondent no.2 in collusion and under instructions of respondent no. 2’s/WFI former President and member of Parliament from Kaiserganj constituency namely Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh,” states the petition.

“Every possible means have been deployed by respondent no. 2/WFI to muffle the voices of the protesting petitioners and deprive them from any future scope of participation at the international level irrespective of their merit and competence,” it said.

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