The Sports Ministry and Hockey India on Wednesday came in for flak from the high courts in Delhi and Mumbai, which stayed the oft-postponed elections for the hockey body's managing committee for indefinite period, putting Indian teams' participation in international events in jeopardy.
Justice S Muralidhar of Delhi High Court took strong exception at the Ministry's refusal to clarify which of the two bodies for hockey in the country it recognized — the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) or Hockey India (HI).
The double bench comprising Justice DD Sinha and Mrs Mridula Bhatkar, JJ pulled up HI for not taking any action on an application for affiliation by Bombay Hockey Association (BHA) Ltd, despite its lawyer assuring the court in January this year that a decision would be taken within three weeks. The court ruled that HI has failed to fulfil its commitment and stayed the elections.
Two months after it reinstated the IHF headed by KPS Gill, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday warned the central government against continuing to associate with HI, calling it a mere "private body". The court had also asked the government to clarify to the state associations which body was the official one.
Justice Muralidhar just refused to accept Ministry's stand that it recognised both the bodies and said such a position was untenable.
"In view of the impasse brought to fore because of the Sports Ministry's defiance and refusal to clarify its stand, the election process of Hockey India is stayed till further orders. There will be enormous confusion if poll process is held in this situation," the judge said.
The court was furious that the Ministry refused to issue a letter to all state units that IHF was the only recognised body for hockey in India despite an assurance by its lawyer to the court on Tuesday.
The judge was shocked to hear from Joint Secretary (Sports) Injeti Srinivas that the lawyer had not taken proper instruction before making such a submission before the court.
In Mumbai HC, Hockey India counsel Prachiti Darda submitted that their May 3, 2010 communication addressed to BHA — regarding setting up of Hockey Maharashtra — meant that BHA's application for affiliation was rejected.
But the submission failed to impress the judges, who noted that Hockey India had not acted upon the BHA's application for affiliation at all.
"In absence thereof it will be completely improper for respondent-1 (Hockey India) to proceed with the process of election," observed the judges while staying the elections until further orders.
HI to move SC; FIH threatens sanction
PTI adds: Forced to put off its polls for the fourth time, Hockey India on Wednesday decided to move the Supreme Court against the stay order even as the world body International
Hockey Federation (FIH) threatened to impose sanctions on India if elections were not held at the earliest.
Hockey India lawyer Hitesh Jain said they were left with no other option but to move the Supreme Court. "We are moving the Supreme Court within two days time against the Bombay High Court's stay order. There are court cases in almost every state, so we will ask the Honourable Supreme Court to take all the cases and solve them at the earliest in the best interest of our national game," Jain said.
FIH vice-president Antonio von Ondarza said, "It is now the duty of all the parties concerned to set the ball rolling. We don't want to take any drastic steps but please don't force us to do it."