Delhi HC stays Gymnastics Federation of India elections

 The Delhi High Court has stayed the election of the office bearers and members of the executive committee of Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) which was scheduled to be held on September 29.

In an order dated September 27, Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav said unless the Sports Code and the relevant judicial directions are followed, the sports body cannot be allowed to conduct any fresh election.

“Accordingly, it is directed that there shall be a stay of the impugned notice dated 07.09.2022 regarding the election of the office bearers and members of the executive committee of respondent no. 2-GFI till the next date of hearing,” the court ordered and listed the case for next hearing on October 12.

“Unless the matter is fully heard by this court, at this stage, there is a serious doubt about compliance of the mandate of the Sports Code and the directions passed (by the court),” it said.

The court’s order came on a petition by Padmaja Garikipati who argued that the proposed polling on September 29 will be in violation of the binding directions passed by the high court on various occasions with respect to strict compliance with the Sports Code.

The court was informed that the petitioner is an ophthalmologist and has been the coach-cum-manager of her gymnast daughter for national and international competitions.

The petitioner’s counsel submitted that in an order passed on August 16, 2022, a division bench of the high court specifically directed that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and National Sports Federations (NSFs) have to necessarily comply with the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 and GFI was in non-compliance of this mandate.

The lawyer said the division bench clarified on September 1 that for all elections the Centre has to ensure strict compliance of the 2022 order.

In its order, the court said as of now, the judicial orders “unequivocally” mandate strict compliance with the Sports Code for all future elections and GFI cannot expect any dilution.

“In the absence of there being full satisfaction with respect to the compliance of those directions, this court is of the considered opinion that the petitioner is able to make a prima facie case in its favour that the respondent no.2-GFI is in non-compliance of the mandate of the order dated 16.08.2022,” the court observed.

“If the order dated 01.09.2023 is to be understood in its right perspective, the same clarifies that the order dated 16.08.2022… has full application on all National Sports Federations. Unless the respondents satisfy that they are in full compliance of the Sports Code and the directions dated 16.08.2022 .., they cannot be allowed to conduct any fresh election contrary to the said binding orders,” the court said.

The GFI opposed the petition, saying the court’s earlier directions have been complied with in their letter and spirit but some of them are not applicable to NSFs like itself, and the issue is already pending in the Supreme Court.

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During the proceedings, Centre supported the submissions of GFI and said the Returning Officer, a former judge of the High Court of Madras, has exhaustively considered all relevant aspects and has come to the conclusion that there was no impediment in conducting the election.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday refused to entertain the GFI’s petition and asked it to approach the Delhi High Court for reliefs pertaining to the elections.

The Delhi High Court had on September 1 taken note of the submissions made by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, who had filed a PIL in 2010 seeking reforms in sports bodies, that elections to various sports associations were held in violation of its 2022 judgement.

On August 16, 2022, the high court had passed a slew of directions including to the Centre to not grant recognition or facilities to sports bodies that do not comply with the sports code, implement structural reforms to remove mismanagement in sports associations, and to democratise these institutions.

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