In a significant observation, Madras High Court on Wednesday made it clear that the important functionaries in sports organizations would only be sportspersons and not politicians or businesspeople. The bench has issued a few directives to ensure a better framework of the sports organizations in the Tamil Nadu state.
The High Court bench made it mandatory for sports organizations to register with the State government, establish grievance redressal cells and effectuate an online registration system for all athletic championships.
Justice R Mahadevan stated that these measures would go a long way in ensuring that the best talent in the country is sent for participation in every event that matters up to the level of Olympics and that deserving candidates are never left out of the fray.
The single-judge bench stated that important positions including president, vice-president and secretary of all sports clubs, associations and federations in the State must be held by sports persons only. No one will be provided an important position in the organization just because of their financial contributions.
The bench was hearing a petition by a woman athlete who was denied entry by Tamil Nadu Athletics Association to participate in the Open National Championships for the years 2017 and 2018.
The petitioner alleged that the authorities use the pick-and-choose method to select athletes while ignoring well-merited athletes like her.
She also mentioned in her petition that there is a dire need to implement the Sports Code to revamp the State and District level sports bodies and retrieve them from the clutches of politicians or businessmen.
Taking note of her contentions, the bench stated that the disease is not just on the externally visible layers of the system, but has penetrated deep into every layer trickling down up to the lowest level of decision-making.
“This reminds one of the analogy that taking a superfluous view on the matter by only making external changes without looking into the problems, which are the real reasons for such ignorance of merit, and the issues of favouritism and nepotism, in the system of selection of athletes, would be like using the skills of dermatology to cure the deep-rooted cells of cancer,” Justice R Mahadevan said.
Discussing the judgment of Board of Control for Cricket in India v. Cricket Association of Bihar, the bench went on to add, “any organization or entity that has such pervasive control over the game and its affairs and such powers as can make dreams end up in smoke or come true cannot be said to be undertaking any private activity.”
The directives issued by the Madras High Court reads
- The State government should consider creating a legal framework that imposes statutory regulation on the functioning of every sports organisation/clubs/association, including the state unit of the National Sports Federation in respect of every field of sports;
- Every sports association/organisation shall be compulsorily registered with the State government;
- Every Sports Association should have a record of all the above stated details and it shall be within the power of the State government to inspect such records at any given point of time;
- The State government as well as the state unit of the National Sports Federation of every sport which is recognised by the Central government shall have a grievance cell;
- The positions of President, Vice President and Secretary of every sports association/organisation as well as important functionaries of such organisations including that of the State unit of the National sports Federation shall be held only by sports persons;
- The selection of athletes shall be within the purview of the decision-making powers of the selection committee consisting only of sports persons;
- No person shall be entitled to hold the position of President, Vice President, Secretary or any other important functionary in any association as well as federation on the only ground that he or she has contributed financially to the said organisation;
- Any reference to the term ‘sports persons’ would mean a person who has participated in sports at least at the State level;
- An online registration system for all district level, state level and national level athletic championships, competitions, meets and events, similar to the model followed in the Federation Cup Athletics Championships, shall be effectuated immediately;
- It shall be mandatory for every association to have a website where all its financial aid as sanctioned and granted by the sports development authority of the respective State as well as by the Union Government must be furnished;
- In cases where it is found after an enquiry that any association/organisation or state unit of the National sports Federation has acted against merit in respect of the selection of participants, the State Government can take penal action against such an organisation;
- In the event of any grievance made by any athlete/sports person to the state unit of the National sports Federation, the same shall be disposed of within a period of one week from the date on which such a grievance has been raised;
- The suggestions placed by the sixth respondent, which are extracted in para 9(vi) of this order shall be considered by the respondents 1, 4 and 5.