Fresh row in IOA over ‘illegal’ appointments

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) elections may have been stayed by Delhi High Court but there seems to be no end to the drama. IOA president Narinder Batra’s appointment of chefs de mission, deputy chefs de mission, and general team managers for this year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games has had many in the association questioning the legality of the move.

“Not only is this unilateral, arbitrary, and illegal, but it also tantamounts to contempt of court. Seems like Mr Batra has completely lost the plot. He no longer has the authority to make these appointments after the HC order,” said IOA treasurer Anandeshwar Pandey.

The tenure of IOA’s executive committee ended on December 14 last year. Since then, the ad-hoc EC of Batra, Pandey, and IOA general-secretary Rajeev Mehta has been running daily operations.

As per the letters dated January 11, copies of which are with this paper, Batra has appointed RK Anand, senior vice-president, IOA, as chef de mission for Commonwealth Games. Bhupender Singh Bajwa, president of Wushu Association of India, was named chef de mission for the Asian Games. Ajay Kumar Singhania (secretary-general, Badminton Association of India), Hariom Kaushik, (executive board member, Netball Federation of India), Gurudatta Bhakta (secretary-general of Goa Olympic Association and executive council member of Judo Federation of India), and Swapan Banerjee (president, Bengal Olympics Association and Hockey Bengal) have been named deputy chef de mission for Asian Games.

Prashant Kushwaha (secretary-general of Kayaking and Canoeing Association of India), Chiranjib Choudhary (secretary-general, Meghalaya Olympic Association and vice-president Table Tennis Federation of India), Rajesh Bhandari (secretary-general, Himachal Pradesh Olympics Association and vice-president, Boxing Federation of India) have been named general team manager for the CWG.

“This is completely illegal. The EC was supposed to run just the day-to-day functions. Moreover, none of us were consulted. I don’t have much issue with the personnel who have been appointed because some of them are very good at what they do, but the manner and timing of these appointments are incorrect,” said Mehta.

Batra defended the move. “I don’t see any legal hassles here. India was perhaps the only country that had not appointed a chef de mission or a deputy chef de mission till January 11. The meetings of various chef de missions have already started, and we can’t be sending office attendants or joint-secretaries to these meetings. It is embarrassing for the country. We should have made these appointments by October-November last year but due to the court case and the stay on elections, it got delayed.”

The IOA, as per orders from the divisional bench of Justices Manmohan and Najmi Waziri of the Delhi High Court, is currently under a status quo. IOA’s executive committee elections were due on December 19 last year in Guwahati, but the court, acting on a plea of sports lawyer and activist Rahul Mehra, ordered a stay.

The IOA is required to inform the court by January 21 whether it agrees with the constitutional amendments suggested by Mehra. The next hearing is on January 27.

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