Will Retract Circular Issued to Conduct Olympic Trials: WFI to Delhi HC

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it will retract its circular, issued on February 26, regarding the conduct of selection trials for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament.

Justice Sachin Datta was hearing a petition by wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and her husband Satyawart Kadian, seeking to annul and declare the recent WFI elections as illegal for violating the Sports Code.

WFI’s counsel assured the court that the circular would be withdrawn, saying that this action does not prejudice the federation’s rights and contentions.

Consequently, the court directed that the selection trials proceed in accordance with the circular issued by WFI’s Ad-hoc Committee on February 9, which had announced the scheduling of National Selection Trials on March 10-11.

The court stressed the importance of ensuring that all eligible athletes are given the opportunity to participate in the trials, stressing the Ad-hoc Committee’s responsibility in this regard.

The case is scheduled for further hearing on April 26.

Justice Datta had, in the previous hearing, sought a response from the Centre through the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, the WFI and the federation’s Ad-Hoc Committee.

The petition argues that the elections conducted on December 21, 2023 were conducted in disregard of the Sports Code, and are urging the WFI to halt any activities related to the sport until the matter is resolved. Citing the broader implications of the WFI’s actions, the petition notes that many athletes beyond the petitioners have suffered due to the federation’s practices, allegedly under the influence of its former President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Notably, the wrestlers were actively involved in the protest last year at Jantar Mantar, which called for the arrest of the then WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment against several female grapplers.

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The plea now accuses the WFI of attempting to silence and sideline protesting athletes, impacting their international participation prospects. Moreover, the petition calls for the Ad-Hoc committee to continue managing the WFI’s daily affairs or the appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge to oversee the federation’s management.

The wrestlers have labelled the WFI a “habitual offender” for consistently ignoring directives from the Sports Ministry and the Ad-hoc Committee, actions they claim have significantly hindered the career growth of Indian wrestlers.

Despite the Sports Ministry’s directive for the WFI to cease its management functions and refrain from conducting trials or national events, the federation allegedly persisted in organising unauthorised trials and events. The petition seeks the court invalidate the December 21 elections, labelling them as fundamentally flawed and conducted in stark violation of the Sports Code. (IANS)

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