Sexual Harassment Allegations: HC Refuses to Interfere with Sports Ministry’s Order to Relieve Kabaddi Team Coach

The Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with the order of the Union sports ministry to relieve the chief coach of the Indian kabaddi men’s team for Asiad Games 2023 following allegations of sexual harassment and stalking made by a minor girl player.

The high court said the allegations levelled against coach Ashan Kumar are serious and disassociating him from the position of the chief coach during the enquiry by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) cannot be said to be “illegal, irrational and it also does not suffer from procedural irregularities”.

“There are serious allegations against the petitioner for the offence under Sections 354-A (sexual harassment), 354-D (stalking) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC and under Section 12 (punishment for sexual harassment) of the POCSO Act, 2012. This court is not inclined to interfere with the decision arrived at by the respondents (authorities). Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed,” Justice Subramonium Prasad said in an order passed on September 26 and uploaded on the court’s website on October 4.

The court passed the order on a plea by Kumar challenging the September 22 order of the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and September 23 order of the Sports Authority of India relieving him from the position of chief coach for the national coaching camp for the Indian kabaddi team (men’s) for the ongoing Asiad Games, 2023 in China.

The petitioner, an Arjuna awardee, said relieving him from the position at this juncture would have a serious impact on the performance of the team.

On September 4, an FIR was registered against him on the complaint of a minor girl at Bhiwani police station in Haryana who accused Kumar of having sexually harassed her.

She alleged Kumar used to ask her to meet him and also threatened he will thwart her entry into the girls’ team if she does not.

However, she later filed an affidavit saying she made the complaint due to some misunderstanding, and the police also filed a closure report.

The court noted the complaint has been referred to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) and the report is yet to be received.

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“In view of the fact that there is a complaint against the coach and that allegations are serious in nature, including the one under the POCSO Act, the decision of the Sports Authority of India relieving the petitioner from the post of chief coach cannot be said to be arbitrary,” the high court said.

It said the fact that the complainant and her father have sworn affidavits stating that the complaint against the coach was lodged due to some misunderstanding and the police have filed a closure report does not vitiate the ministry’s order to disassociate him with training and preparations of the National Team for kabaddi until the report of the ICC has been received.

“The scope of interference by the courts under Article 226 of the Constitution in administrative decisions is narrow. The courts only have to see as to whether the decision which has been arrived at is just and reasonable and is not perverse. The courts do not substitute their own decision to the one arrived at by the authorities,” it added.

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