Court comes to Jwala’s rescue

M. SUBHASH

Jwala Gutta thoroughly exposed the Badminton Association of India which acted in a brazenly autocratic and arbitrary manner. By Rakesh Rao.

Over the past decade and a half, G. Jwala has fought hard battles on the badminton court. She won some, lost some. But on October 10, this firebrand woman dragged the Badminton Association of India to the Delhi High Court. It was one battle she could not afford to lose. Eventually, justice prevailed and Jwala walked away a deserving winner.

Earlier, the BAI authorities threatened to impose a “life time ban” on Jwala, for alleged misconduct during the inaugural Indian Badminton League.

The BAI, acting in a brazenly autocratic and arbitrary manner, through its Disciplinary Committee, found Jwala guilty of delaying an IBL match by half an hour. The strongly-worded recommendations of the Committee also suggested that an unconditional apology from Jwala could get her pardon from the BAI President Akhilesh Das Gupta. This was after Jwala had responded to the BAI’s show cause notice.

With Jwala contemplating legal action, the BAI decided to form a three-member committee to hear the player’s defence against the proposed life ban. It was also decided that the committee would give its report within a month and during that time Jwala would not be considered for participation in any national and international tournaments.

Jwala’s plea in the Delhi High Court could not be taken on October 9 due to the demise of one of the lawyers. The same evening, sensing an adverse judgement, the BAI withdrew the doubles entry of Jwala and Ashwini Ponappa from the Denmark Open scheduled to start on October 15. In fact, on September 1, the BAI had “punished” Jwala (and Ashwini) by withdrawing her entry from the Japan Open.

After the matter came up for hearing on October 10, Justice V. K. Jain ruled in favour of Jwala, paving the way for her participation in tournaments in India and abroad. The court also directed the BAI to “withdraw the communication (to the organisers of the Denmark Open) and permit the petitioner (Jwala) to participate in the aforesaid tournament.”

Making a significant observation, the Court said, “In fact, the emphasis in the report of the Disciplinary Committee appears to be more on the refusal of the petitioner (Jwala) to apologize and less on the nature of the misconduct attributed to her.”

Indeed, the BAI top brass had created a situation where a word of apology was the only way out for Jwala to salvage her career. “The Disciplinary Committee never intended to impose a life ban on Jwala. I thought she would apologize to the BAI President and close the matter,” was the candid admission of S. Muralidharan, the Disciplinary Committee Chairman.

Indeed, the BAI officials, in spite of knowing Jwala’s temperament and the fact that she spoke her mind, had clearly underestimated the options available for the flamboyant player. Unlike the vast majority of players who, either out of respect or fear, never questioned the dictates of the BAI or the Chief coach P. Gopi Chand, Jwala has never shied away from pointing out the apparent wrongdoings of those in authority.

Even on August 25, when the match between Delhi Smashers and Banga Beats was delayed for half an hour, it was Jwala who questioned the gross violation of IBL rules after the latter had made a late change to the player’s list. Eventually, Banga Beats was made to replace Jan O Jorgensen with Arvind Bhat and Delhi Smashers went on to win the tie.

Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta...a formidable doubles combination.-PTI

In her response to the show cause, Jwala had stated, “Please appreciate that any changes with respect to the opponent team’s composition at the last minute causes confusion, anxiousness and unrest within the team since the entire preparation and team strategy is based on the competence and capabilities of each member of the other team.”

This reasoning, also quoted in the Delhi High Court judgment, carried weight and should have been considered by the Disciplinary Committee members, who never met but only communicated through phone and emails before recommending the life ban.

The favourable verdict is just the clearing of a road-block for Jwala and Ashwini. With the BAI’s vindictive ways out in the open, the duo can expect not to be “selected” for any competition. Jwala and Ashwini, coming together after more than a year, look the best doubles combination in the country.

Winners of the 2011 World championship bronze and the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold, Jwala and Ashwini can boost India’s prospects in the Uber Cup (World women team championship) to be held New Delhi in 2014.

With the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games also scheduled next year, the BAI cannot afford to ignore the best pair in the country.