Centre's decision to extend recognition of National Sports Federations not justified: HC

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New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) The Centre's decision to extend recognition of National Sports Federations and giving them further six months to one year to comply with the sports code is 'not justified', the Delhi High Court has said.

It has decided to closely monitor the progress to ensure that the extension does not turn out to be futile.

The high court said the sports federations which do not fall in line and comply with the National Sports Code do not deserve and will not be entitled to receive any grants from the central government.

'The directions to ensure compliance with the National Sports Code were passed by this court initially in the year 2014 … and again in February 2020… In this background, for the respondents (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports) to grant further time to the sports federations is not justified,' a special bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Najmi Waziri said in an order passed last week.

'We also direct the respondents to put all the sports federations to notice of these proceedings, and of the orders passed by this court in this and other related proceedings. It should be made clear to each of them that they would run the risk of them not being recognised/ de-recognised and their grants being stopped, in case they do not comply with the provisions of the National Sports Code,' the bench made it clear.

The special bench was hearing a plea challenging the recognition granted to the 41 National Sports Federations (NSFs).

The bench orally observed that if the federations are not complying with the sports code, they are not entitled to use even a single penny of the government money.

'You are allowing NSFs to use government money without doing anything… How can you allow them. It's been happening for over a decade,' it said.

Senior advocate Sachin Dutta and standing counsel Anil Soni, representing the ministry, said there is no compromise on the vital aspects of the sports code and the federations have been given leniency only to a limited extent.

The ministry filed a tabulation, from which the court said it appeared that the authorities have extended the recognition granted to the National Sports Federations (NSF) and have sought to grant them six months to a year's time to comply with the sports code.

The bench said to test the intentions and bona fides of the authorities and to ensure that this extension does not turn out to be as mere a futility as the earlier ones, “we have decided to closely monitor the progress that the NSFs make to comply with the sports code'.

The high court said it shall be for the respondents to follow up with all the sports federations concerned on a regular basis and call for compliance reports with regard to all aspects of the sports code and the federations which do not fall in line will not be entitled to receive grants from the government.

The bench directed the ministry to file an affidavit along with tabulation every fortnight after gathering the information or status from the NSFs so that it is available to the court at each hearing to ascertain the progress made by them in respect of compliance with the provisions of the sports code.

Petitioner lawyer and sports activist Rahul Mehra, in his plea, has claimed 'abject inaction' by the Centre with regard to alleged maladministration of NSFs and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

On November 6, 2020, the high court had asked the Centre to show that the 41 NSFs, which were granted recognition in October, were complying with the requirements of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.

It had directed the ministry to show that each of the 41 NSFs, which were granted recognition, have complied with every requirement of the sports code as these bodies are funded by public money.

Mehra had also contended that none of the NSFs which have been granted recognition have complied with the sports code.

The bench had pointed out that the Supreme Court has on several occasions held that recognition cannot be granted to a NSF which is not complying with the sports code.

Mehra, in his instant petition, has contended that the decision granting recognition to the 41 NSFs is contrary to the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 (sports code), and 'issued in a wholly arbitrary manner'.

The plea, filed through advocate Chaitanya Gosain, has said the ministry granted recognition to the 41 NSFs, after the Supreme Court clarified that it does not need prior approval of the high court to take any decisions.

The Supreme Court's September 17, 2020 order had come on the ministry's appeal against a February 7, 2020 order of the high court, in Mehra's 2010 petition, directing that it be informed in advance by the government and IOA before taking any decision in respect of any NSF.

Subsequently, in October 2020 the ministry granted recognition to 41 NSFs, 'including those that were refused recognition up to December 31, 2019 for being in violation of the sports code, and who were in violation thereof even on July 31, 2020', the plea said.

The petition has claimed that the ministry spent nearly Rs 14,391.49 crore on sporting activities from 2009-10 to 2018-19, and nearly Rs 1,237.56 crore has been disbursed directly to NSFs, including IOA from 2009-10 to 2019-20 on the explicit, statutory understanding that they will comply with the sports code. PTI SKV SNE SNE