It took the Sports Ministry more than nine years, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and a Delhi High Court order to put a cap on the tenure of sports bosses such as Suresh Kalmadi of the Indian Olympic Association and Vijay
Kumar Malhotra of the archery federation.
<b1>Kalmadi has been IOA president for 14 years now, starting in 1996, and most people have forgotten when Malhotra started his tenure or who he succeeded, three decades ago.
Kalmadi, Malhotra and a lot of the other sports bosses — of the National Sports Federation (NSF) — will now complete the remainder of their terms and retire, according to a notification issued by the Union Sports Ministry on Sunday.
The notification doesn't cover cricket, tennis and other sports not financially supported by the government.
"I passed this order in confidence that it will serve the best interest of the sportspersons of the country and it will give an impetus to transparent and professional management of Indian sports, in the new century,” said Sports Minister MS Gill.
Actually, Gill's ministry has merely brought back a 1975 rule that specified fixed tenure for sports bosses, but had been put aside by Uma Bharti as sports minister in 2001.
Also, the ministry might have felt the pressure to come up with the notification in view of a May 5 deadline fixed by Delhi High Court for coming up with rules and regulations for running sports organizations.
Rahul Mehra, the advocate who filed the PIL last December seeking the court's intervention to stop sports federations becoming personal fiefdoms, said, “They (the Ministry) were bound to reply or send a notification after the High Court Order on Wednesday. Otherwise, tell me what took them 10 years to restore a 1975 order?”
According to the National Sports guidelines (1975), office bearers of sports federations cannot hold office for more than two terms of four years each (max eight years).
But this time the Ministry has 'modified' the order in compliance with the International Olympic Council, allowing sports federations presidents to hold office for a maximum of 12 years.
Sources in the IOA said the association was yet to see the order. VK Verma, president of the Badminton Association, said he did not know about such an order.
The Athletics Federation of India secretary, Lalit Bhanot, who is also the IOA joint secretary, said he would like to reply only after going through the order. “I have not read the order as yet,” he said.
Despite repeated attempts, Malhotra and Kalmadi could not be contacted.
All office-bearers will retire when they are 70 years, said the notification. However, the order, which comes into effect immediately, will not disrupt the continuity of the federation heads for now.
A senior Ministry official said that with most federations being headed by people who had completed more than two-three terms, removing all of them “would create a vacuum”.
He said that this had been done keeping in mind the Commonwealth Games in October. All officials who end their tenure before the next elections shall not be eligible to contest.
The secretary and treasurer are eligible for re-election after completing two successive terms of four years but only after “a minimum cooling off period of four years”.
According to the notification, the Ministry has also finalised the retirement age of all office-bearers to 70 years.