SC to hear plea on implemeting Lodha reforms across all sports federations

Sportspersons had requested the Lodha reforms to be implemented in all sports federations across the country, focusing on the ouster of 70-year-old office-bearers, government ministers, who have been heading many sports federations for a very long time.

Supreme Court

Money, influence and chicanery play the dominant part in sports administration, not the welfare of the game or the player. Sports administration has become a refuge for “cabals, coterie, manipulations and intrigue”.

Sports administration in India has fallen into the hands of the “moneyed and powerful few”. Games such as kabbadi, hockey, wrestling - all sports which were once India’s forte - have been reduced to pale shadows of their former selves in the hands of administrators who run National Sports Federations in the country.

Money, influence and chicanery play the dominant part in sports administration, not the welfare of the game or the player. Sports administration has become a refuge for “cabals, coterie, manipulations and intrigue”.

These are excerpts from an emotional plea made by 28 leading sportspersons, Olympians and distinguished sports personalities, who poured out their anguish in the Supreme Court about the State of affairs of sports administration in India. They prayed the top court to intervene like how it did with the BCCI.

In a rare endorsement of the Justice R. M. Lodha Committee’s work to usher in transparency within BCCI officialdom, sportspersons across various disciplines joined hands to beseech the court to include and incorporate the Lodha panel’s “salutary” reforms in the National Sports Development Code of India of 2011 for the sake of the larger interests of sports.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J. S. Khehar agreed with them on Monday.

Issuing notice, the court now wants a response from the Union of India, Sports Authority of India and the Indian Olympic Association on why the Lodha reforms cannot be extended to National Sports Federations and other sporting bodies and their State entities.

Some of the 28 include cricketing legend Bishan Singh Bedi, Kirti Azad, badminton aces Ashwini Nachappa and Jwala Gutta, Joaquin Carvalho and Ashok Kumar, hockey player and son of hockey legend Dhyan Chand.

Recommendations

The petition said recommendations of the Lodha panel, confirmed by the Supreme Court, like ‘One State One Vote’, uniformity of structure in State associations, limited tenures for office-bearers and compulsory cooling-off periods, a voice for players, appointment of an ombudsman to adjudicate complaints between players and management, electoral officers to hold elections transparently, accountability and ethics and separation of governance from management, among others should be implemented in other sporting bodies also.

“National Sports Federations have reached to such depths that neither the sporting bodies nor the State care any longer for the future of successive generations of sportspersons. Sports administration is mired in power play...” the petition, argued by advocates Venkita Subramonium and Amit A. Pai, said.

It said the state of sports is in such a “lock jaw” where 1.2 billion people have to rest content with “a medal harvest so meagre that it was surpassed by just one individual, Michael Phelps”.

In the London Olympics, India’s tally of six medals meant that there was only one medal for every 207 million inhabitants, the petition said.

The petition said how the government has an overwhelming responsibility to monitor these federations and insist that they meet certain basic standards. It contended that Rs. 435 crore was spent by the government on them in the past four years for travel expenses alone.

"If the State allows them to represent the nation in the sports arena, it has the legitimate right to protect sportspersons and not let the sports bodies languish in the hands of the “moneyed and powerful few”, the petition said.