The threatening clash between Hockey India (HI) and the Sports Ministry became increasingly eminent on Tuesday. Despite government guidelines barring nomination of any candidate above the age of 70, returning officer Justice RC Chopra (retired) accepted the candidature of Vidya Stokes for the post of president. The elections are scheduled for July 28.
The approval means that Stokes, aged 83, will contest for the post against former India captain Pargat Singh. The poll itself, however, was given 'conditional' green signal by the ministry and it had mentioned that its guidelines including age limit would have to be adhered to.
In an interim report to the ministry, Government Observer SK Mendiratta said Pargat Singh objected to Stokes' nomination as it violated the government guidelines. However, Hockey India secretary general, Narinder Batra, who was reportedly representing Stokes along with a lawyer, countered saying that the “elections to HI were to be held in accordance with its constitution and by-laws and that there was no age limit for any office in the Hockey India as per its said constitution and by-laws.”
The report further says that “Batra categorically made a statement before the Returning Officer that HI was not asking for any financial grant or facilities from the government and, therefore, HI was not obliged to follow and implement policy guidelines of the government.”
The ministry has taken strong exception to Batra's stand. “I do not understand how an interim nominee member of an ad-hoc body can take such a decision without any general body meeting ratifying its membership. There are 35 affiliated states but a decision as big as this was taken by just one person,” Joint secretary (Sports) Injeti Srinivas told HT. He further added that he expects to receive a copy of the ruling and further steps would be taken after its careful study.
HI though maintains its position and has defended itself saying it would only follow the guidelines that existed at the time they were given by the ministry. “The government is biased and is only trying to influence the polls. There would be no alterations in the election process as it is as per the guidelines of the Societies Act,” said Batra.
Meanwhile, Mendiratta has sought directions from the ministry whether he should continue as its observer as HI has decided not to follow any of the government guidelines.