The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) may have an “appointed CEO” instead of an elected Secretary General after the December elections as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has proposed far-reaching changes to the constitution of the national sports apex body during a joint meeting in Switzerland last month.
Representatives of the IOC, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), IOA and Sports Ministry had a meeting in Lausanne on September 27, following a “final warning” by the international sports umbrella body to ban the national Olympic body if elections are not announced before the next IOC executive board meeting (December 5-7).
Following the meeting, which was also attended by India’s first individual Olympic gold medal-winning shooter Abhinav Bindra, the IOC issued a summary which proposed, among other things, to change the position of an elected Secretary General into an appointed CEO hired by the executive committee.
“The IOC/OCA will also propose additional elements (such as changing the position of elected Secretary General into an appointed position, so that the Secretary General would serve as a CEO appointed/hired by the Executive Committee, and including an independent ethics commission, a properly functioning athletes commission as per the IOC guidelines and safeguarding practices),” the IOC said in the summary which is in the possession of PTI.
The suggestions, if implemented, will be a far reaching one in the context of Indian sport as it may trigger such moves in other National Sports Federations. Till now, only a few NSFs such as the All India Football Federation, have a salaried Secretary General appointed by the executive committee.
The IOA elections were due in December last year but could not be held due to a pending case in the Delhi High Court where a petition was filed, seeking amendment in its constitution before holding elections to align it with the National Sports Code.
The IOC “in principle” agreed to most of the points raised by the Delhi High Court in its August decision, saying they were compatible with the Olympic Charter and the basic principles of good governance, except for two major points.
The IOC has reservations regarding the proposed 25 per cent membership of sportspersons in the IOA General Assembly with voting rights.
The IOC’s stance to accept the Delhi High Court decision and Supreme Court order on September 22 to appoint a former judge to work on the amendments of the IOA Constitution and supervise the elections will thus give hope that the vexed issue can be resolved by announcing the IOA elections before the December meeting of the IOC Executive Board.
“The IOA Constitution will be amended to include the necessary governance reforms. To this effect, the IOC/OCA will work together with the judge appointed by the Supreme Court of India on the draft revised Constitution,” the IOC said.
“In principle, most of the points raised by the High Court of Delhi in its decision dated 16 August 2022 are agreeable for the IOC/OCA and compatible with the Olympic Charter and the basic principles of good governance of the Olympic Movement, except the 2/3 majority required for a re-election (a simple majority, i.e. more than 50% of the votes validly cast, should be sufficient, like in any election process).
“...and, the appointment of 25% sportspersons as voting members within the IOA General Assembly and Executive Committee (which should be refined and mechanism of which should be re-discussed to make it workable and in line with basic requirements relating to the membership of any NOC, as per the Olympic Charter, and with the usual standards within the Olympic Movement).” An official, who attended the joint meeting in Lausanne, said that the Indian delegates have accepted IOC’s proposal. He also said that the state Olympic associations may also lose voting rights in the IOA General Assembly. The IOC said once the draft constitution is finalised by the retired judge in agreement with the IOC/OCA, it will be formally adopted by the IOA General Assembly.
“The IOA elections will be held in accordance with the newly approved IOA Constitution and the Olympic Charter, under the supervision of the former judge appointed by the Supreme Court and the IOC/OCA. The whole process (including the elections) will have to be completed prior to the IOC EB meeting in December 2022.”
Meanwhile, Justice (retired) L Nageswara Rao, who was tasked by the Supreme Court to amend the IOA constitution, has called a meeting with the key sports bodies of the country on October 14.
Rao, in a notice issued last week, asked advocate Rahul Mehra, the original petitioner at the Delhi High Court, officials of the IOA, sports ministry, Sports Authority of India, NIS Patiala, Athletics Federation of India, Badminton Association of India, National Rifle Association of India, Hockey India, All India Tennis Federation, All India Football Federation, All India Chess Federation, Indian Weightlifting Federation and Indian Amateur Boxing Federation to attend a meeting to discuss the next developments.
Rao also invited “consultant sportspersons” appointed by the Delhi High Court to the meeting -- Bindra, legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George and Olympian archer Laishram Bombayla Devi, as well as interested National Sports Federations and state Olympic associations for a meeting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex in New Delhi.
The Delhi High Court had on August 16 ordered the setting up of a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to manage the affairs of the IOA. The high court said the “persistent recalcitrance” of the IOA to comply with the Sports Code made it imperative that its affairs be put in the hands of the CoA, comprising former Supreme Court judge Justice Anil R Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, and former Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup.
But, the Supreme Court on August 18, had ordered status quo after the IOA filed a Special Leave Petition at the apex court against the Delhi High Court’s decision.
Rao said he was calling the meeting as per instructions of the Supreme Court “to prepare a road map for the amendment of the IOA Constitution and for the conduct of IOA elections so that the entire process is completed at best by December 15, 2022”.