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Skeet team grounded

The Punjab and Haryana High Court’s recent order that Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) should be accorded the same status as Non-Resident Indians for representing India in international sports events, has not gone down well with the Sports Ministry.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2010 23:48 IST

The Punjab and Haryana High Court’s recent order that Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) should be accorded the same status as Non-Resident Indians for representing India in international sports events, has not gone down well with the Sports Ministry.

The ministry has asked the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to withdraw the skeet team competing in the prestigious Asian Championships at Bangkok as one of the shooters, Sohrab Gill, is an OCI, and according to the ministry’s December 2008 order, no OCI or Person of Indian Origin (PIO) can don India colours in international events.

The decision has shocked the Indian contingent, which won the trap team gold and individual silver in the championships a couple of days back and there was hope that the skeet team too would come out with flying colours. The event begins on Sunday. HT has learnt that the ministry had cleared a five-member skeet team at full cost to government, but once the NRAI included Gill’s name in the squad, the ministry decided not to foot the Punjab shooter’s bill for the competition.

Left with no choice, the marksman, who was born in the US and returned to India at the age of one, paid for his ticket and other expenses to reach Bangkok. On reaching there, he got the shock of his life when he was told that the entire skeet team would be withdrawn if he competed. The skeet team competing for medals includes veteran Mairaj Khan, Aerozpal Singh and PP Singh, while Gill and Man Singh were to shoot for Minimum Qualification Score (MQS).

The Punjab Advocate-General, HS Mattewal, had argued that a notification issued on April 11, 2005 had granted OCIs parity with NRIs in respect of all facilities. And since Gill was a student and sports part of education, he was entitled to the same rights as NRIs. The High Court Bench had then held that since an NRI was permitted to participate in sports events for India --- and facilities available to NRIs had been granted to OCIs --- Gill could not be denied the right to compete. After the orders, the NRAI included Gill’s name for the Championships.

The ministry’s joint secretary, Injeti Sriniwas, said, “I will not comment to the media.” But when pressed, he said, “It is a considered decision, and since the case is sub-judice, I will reserve my comments.”

Gill’s lawyer, Pavit Mattewal, said, “It’s surprising that the ministry has directed NRAI to withdraw the team. We have filed a contempt against the ministry for omitting Sorab’s name from the team.”