The Delhi High Court on Tuesday firmly slammed the door on Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) aspiring to represent India in international sports events, saying they owe their allegiance to their adopted countries.
Upholding the Sports Ministry's policy, the court said, "There is a justification in insisting that only Indian passport holders should represent India in an international sporting event. Those with foreign passports obviously owe their allegiance to the countries of which they hold passport."
Junior squash player, Karm Kumar, who holds a British passport, had challenged in the court the Squash Racket Federation of India's (SRFI) decision to restrict the representation of the country only to Indian citizens. Another US-based player Robert Blanchette too had challenged the rule.
"The question posed at the beginning was this: Can an OCI or a PIO claim a right to represent India in an international sporting event? Answer to that question is in the negative, given the present policy of UOI, which this court doesn't find arbitrary or unreasonable," said Justice S. Muralidhar.
The court said, as long as the government does not recognise dual citizenship in all aspects, foreign passport holders should not be permitted to represent India.
Asked earlier by the High Court to formulate a uniform policy on the vexed issue, the government had consulted the National Sports Federations (NSFs) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) before deciding to restrict representation of the country only to the Indian citizens.
"A uniform policy had to be adopted on the question of permitting PIOs and OCIs to represent India in international sporting events...mere fact that it would adversely affect some persons doesn't make a uniform policy that is based on rational criteria, arbitrary or unreasonable," said the court.
While issuing the rule, the Sports Ministry had said that it was its duty to promote Indian talent from the hinterlands. The ministry was of the view that the new policy would encourage the available talent within the country to "enhance a sense of belonging and patriotism" and encourage many more to improve their performance to get the slot in the future to represent the country.The lawyer representing Karm Kumar said the Sports Ministry rule and the court's decision would also affect the quartet of Prakash Amritraj, Sunitha Rao, Shikha and Neha Uberoi, who are US citizens.