As an Indian I am extremely happy today. Every honest sports administrator and every sports loving citizen of India rejoices today. According to me, it has been a victory for sports as it has been a victory of cricket world cup in 2011. So there is no point equating it with national pride and the shame that it brings along to India, because that is not the case.
There are two cards that the administration will play for their own vested interest and not because they care about sports. Number one – the national pride and the national shame it brings and they are going to be painting the IOC in a black colour and getting into the aspect that how a private body can suspend a nation like India.
Number two – they are going to be using the ‘players’ interest’ card. If they had little bit interest or value and if they cared about the players interest, they would have fallen in line with transparency and accountability decades ago. That’s the last thing. As Abhinav Bindra keeps on saying, athletes should be the nucleus of every decision making, but the athletes are not there any where.
So we shall not fall in this trap that the administrator would like us to and we should rejoice, come out on the streets, and celebrate today.
This issue has been going on for the last two and a half years. Anybody who has been following the sports scenario in India would understand why the IOC has done what it has done now. I am not claiming that the IOC is the best body. IOC is probably the mirror image of the IOA at the international level. Both bodies are deep-rooted in vote bank politics and vested interest. So I am not saying that the IOC is holier, but that for the last two and a half years, the IOC has been in a dialogue with the sports ministry and the IOA and they have been wanting to solve this issue as regards, the sports code.
There was a meeting on June 18 2010 even before the CWG in India, in which Injeti Sreenivas was the then joint secretary of Ministry of Sports. He took a dossier which was a bill in documents of about 500 pages to the IOC and presented the dossier and explained to IOC as to have the national sports code and the guidelines are actually something which are taken out of the Olympics charter with the spirit of Olympics.
And it has been quoted clause by clause, as to the age and tenure, are the only two issue that bother the administrators. They are not concerned about anything else the sports code contains. They are only concerned about the age and tenure that impacts the fiefdom and their dictatorial run over the decades.
So what age and tenure mean? I will give you a small example as to how the IOA constitution is in complete divergence to its parent body’s Olympic charter. Therefore to say that the sports code is a bad document or is interfering with the monotony is absolutely non sense.
The reason is that the three clauses in the Olympic charter clause 16.3 which limits the age of members of IOC to maximum of 70 years. The clause 19.2 and 19.3 of the charter restricts the tenure of the executive to the maximum of two tenures of four years, that is eight years, with a cooling off period of two years after which they can come back for another two years. And clause 20.1 restricts the tenure of the president of the IOC to a maximum of 12 years, which is three tenures maximum with or without break. Now what the sports code has done is completely taken that aspect out of the Olympic charter and placed in its own code, wherein it says every National Sports Federation members including the IOA, shall retire at the age of 70, so there is an age restriction and for the tenure they have said that you cannot have more than two tenures which is exactly what the IOC says with a cooling off period of four years, and for the president you cannot have more than twelve years with or without the break. More importantly there is a bylaw for the law 28 and 29 on the Olympic charter and the IOCs constitution, the IOC charter will prevail. Thus in case of a contradiction over the IOC and the IOA constitution, the IOA prevails. Clearly, now today, the age and the tenure restriction has not been implemented by the IOA in its constitution, so its in contradiction with the Olympic charter.
In that case, the Olympic charter must prevail over the IOA constitution. So the government of India is only saying, and in my case, we have ensured through my interim order in the court that the IOA’s election must be held with not only according to its own constitution but more importantly the sports code. And the sports code restricts the age and tenure falling in line with the Olympic charter. I do not know what the objection is all about. It is only good for the member association like the IOA to follow the good and democratic principles and best international practice being adopted by the parent body. We want supreme autonomy without any accountability and transparency, well, I am sorry, that is not possible. It is possible only in a dictatorial country, and Indian is a democracy where every institution, be so the IOA, functions democratically. It cannot be a dictatorial regime.
Well, I do not know what will happen next but these people are not going to relinquish their posts. India can go to hell, Indian athletes can suffer, but for them its all about there positions and they will stick on to their own posts. There are only two ways this can be stopped.
One, good sense prevails and the administrators say that in any case, these were honorary posts and that we were not gaining anything out of it. It is a thankless job and so we are calling it a day. That is quite unlikely. They have to be thrown out. They won’t gracefully exit. They will challenge everything in the court of law, be it, internationally or domestically. They file petitions. The PIL of mine against the IOA is coming up on the 17 December. It would be interesting to know what the courts have to say on this. That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is that they all can sit down and voluntarily adopt the good democratic principles and the best international practices mandated by the sports code and the IOC. If this happens, then the suspension will be removed and then they will fall in line in their own constitution, and they should then hold fresh elections according to their constitution.
That would be the best way forward. But it is unlikely to happen because of it were to happen, then it would have happened two years ago. We have seen that nothing matters to them more than the posts. What will happen more likely is that they play by the players card, get some Olympians, players, from various parts of the country who are in line and subservient to the administrators and they will play that emotional and patriotic card and try and create a sentiment in the nation that the government should step back and its bad, all this nonsense. They will try and do all that. They would do what they are best at. Divide and rule. They would divide the Olympic players and the athletes and they would continue to rule.
I sincerely pray to God that this is the moment Indian sports has been waiting for. Heavens are not going to fall if for three to six months we clean our in-house mess and initiate the reform process and make sure that all good international practices are put in place in their constitution. Fresh elections are conducted under the gaze of the government, the international observer in the form of IOC, somebody representing IOC who should come and look into how the elections are going.
The court should appoint a body which would run the IOA over the next three to six months and we should add people like Abhinav Bindra and Rajyavardhan Rathore who are extremely sincere, highly patriotic, hugely accomplished and well meaning icons and legends of India. They should be the one who should run these head of bodies for a period of three to six months. They should make sure that the constitutions are in line with the parent charter which is the Olympic charter and the government sports court voluntarily adopt these principles and go in for fresh elections so that India’s participation eventually or in the next three to six months or a year can be insured and heavens cannot simply fall because this is a free calendar year, there is no multi-sport event which is happening in 2013. It will happen in somewhere in the mid of 2014.
It couldn’t have been timed better. It is great moment, we should encash it, we should initiate the reform processes. Athletes should be the nucleus of everything, athletes should take over a part of it. At least one-fourth of the representation that athletes should get today. Only one of the body’s entire executive comprises of the former athletes. Athletes are nowhere. It has been completely hijacked by politicians, lawyers, doctors, traders, businessmen or corporate. Athletes are nowhere.
As told to Kunal Majumder
Rahul Mehra is a lawyer and a sports enthusiast