Delhi High Court seeks WFI stand on challenge to Asian Games trials exemption to wrestlers Vinesh, Bajrang
The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the ad-hoc panel running the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) affairs to state before it the basis for the exemption granted to wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia from the Asian Games trials.
Justice Subramonium Prasad, while hearing a petition by Under-20 World Champion Antim Panghal and Under-23 Asian Champion Sujeet Kalkal against the direct entry handed to Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, asked the sporting body to file its response during the day.
"If it (basis for selection) is just, fair and reasonable, it is the end of the matter," said the judge as he listed the matter for further hearing on Friday.
The court also asked the laurels won by the two selected players be shown to it.
During the hearing, the court asked the counsel for the ad-hoc WFI panel to state what was the basis for the selection besides Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia being good sportspersons as the "entire case" of the petitioners was that "there has to be some kind of a trial".
"The petitioners do not doubt the merit of the two wrestlers whom you have selected to represent the country but what they are saying is that past performance alone can't be the basis of selection," the court said.
"What is the basis for selecting people other than the fact that they are good sportsmen, have you done any kind of a selection process?," it asked.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that the the selection policy itself provides for an exemption to certain category of players.
According to the WFI guidelines, the selection trials in all weight categories are mandatory. However, the Selection Committee will have the discretion to select the iconic players like medallists of Olympic/World Championship without trials provided recommendation by Chief Coach/Foreign Expert.
Counsel for the petitioners said the selection of Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia was not in terms of the exemption policy.
Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and Bajrang Punia (65kg) were given direct entries for the Asian Games by the Indian Olympic Association's ad-hoc committee on Tuesday while other wrestlers will have to book their places in the Indian squad through selection trials on July 22 and 23.
Panghal and Kalkal challenged the exemption and demanded a fair selection process for the quadrennial showpiece.
The petition, moved by advocates Hrishikesh Baruah and Akshay Kumar, demanded that the directive issued by the IOA ad-hoc committee with regard to the two categories (men's freestyle 65kg and women's 53kg) be quashed and the exemption granted to Phogat and Punia be set aside.
Bajrang Punia is currently training in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Vinesh Phogat, who won the 2018 Asian Games gold medal, is training in Budapest, Hungary.
Both of them were at the forefront of wrestlers' protests at Jantar Mantar demanding the arrest of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh for the alleged sexual harassment of seven women grapplers.
The two top grapplers, along with the four other protesting wrestlers -- 2016 Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi, her husband Kadian, Sangeeta and Kinha -- had sought time till August 10 to prepare for the Asian Games and World Championships trials.