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Narinder Batra removed as IOA chief

Narinder Batra removed as IOA chief
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New Delhi: Veteran sports administrator Narinder Batra was on Wednesday removed as IOA President after the Delhi High Court struck down the position of 'Life Member' in Hockey India, courtesy which he had contested and won the apex body elections back in 2017.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) senior vice president Anil Khanna took over as acting chief.

Batra had filed his nomination for the IOA president's post as a representative (Life Member) of Hockey India.

The Delhi HC ruled that the position of Life Member and Life President were "illegal" since they were not in consonance with the National Sports Code and installed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the day-to-day affairs of Hockey India.

The court ruling came while hearing a petition of former India hockey player and a member of the 1975 World Cup-winning team, Aslam Sher Khan, who had challenged Batra's appointment as life member of Hockey India.

The High Court held that HI's appointment of Batra as its life member and Elena Norman as CEO were illegal and thus the administrative setup of Hockey India was erroneous or illegal.

Now in a space of seven days, two national federations have been put under CoA as the Supreme Court, on May 18, had appointed a three-member committee to manage the affairs of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for violation of Sports Code.

Making a reference to the Apex Court ruling, the HC constituted a committee, which will be headed by former Supreme Court judge AR Dave and will have former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and ex-Indian hockey team captain Zafar Iqbal as members.

"....it would be in the public interest that its affairs be put in the hands of a Committee of Administrators (CoA) as has been directed by the Supreme Court on 18th May 2022, in the case of another NSF in All India Football Federation...," the HC said.

"...the administrative setup of R-2 (Hockey India) is, erroneously or illegally constituted because of the Life President and Life Members," the HC bench of Justices Najmi Wajiri and Swarana Kanta Sharma said in its order.

"The Government of India cannot grant recognition to a NSF whose constitution is not in consonance with the Sports Code. The posts of Life President, Life Member in the NSF are illegal so is the post of CEO in the Managing Committee. These posts are struck-down."

A Hockey India source said the sports body has called an emergency meeting on May 30.

Hours after the High Court ruling, IOA issued a statement saying Khanna is now the acting chief of the body.

"....Hence by way of this judgment, Mr. Batra has also been removed from the post of President of the Indian Olympic Association. With the removal of Mr. Batra from Indian Olympic Association, the Acting President of Indian Olympic Association shall be Mr. Anil Khanna who is the Sr. Vice President of IOA."

The HC also came down hard on Batra for trying to "benefit" elsewhere from an "illegal" post.

"What a paradox, to make oneself permanent in an entity whose tenure itself is impermanent. The illegal Post of Life President or Life Member cannot be the stepping-stone for any other position or benefit elsewhere, be it nationally (including in Indian Olympic Association) or in international bodies," the HC bench said.

Batra is also heading International Hockey Federation (FIH). He became President of the world hockey body in 2016 and reclaimed the position last year for a second term.

"If R-3 (Batra) has so benefitted, then such benefit or position shall end right away. Let the CoA look into the matter, so would the Government of India.

"...had himself appointed as Life Member of Hockey India. This smacks of ... brazen impertinence to the clear mandate of law. It was a less than honest but futile endeavour to institutionalize oneself in a body whose legitimacy itself is contingent upon conformity with the Sport Code and the law."

The HC also empowered the CoA to recover whatever amount of money Batra owes as "expenses incurred on such supernumerary, innovative and illegal posts".

Within hours of the Delhi HC decision, Batra issued a statement, saying that he will not seek re-election for a second term when the IOA elections are held and that needs to spend more time as head of International Hockey Federation.

The IOA elections, which were due to be held in December last year, have been kept in abeyance due to another pending court case.

Batra's removal means that his membership of International Olympic Committee will also come to an end as the coveted position was linked to his IOA presidency.

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