The Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association took up battle positions on Wednesday, challenging each other to make the first move, even as the issue of restricting the terms of national sports federation (NSF) officials reached the Prime Minister’s Office.
While the ministry took the unprecedented step by disclosing that it was planning to send a high-ranking official to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne “to sort out the matter across the table”, the IOA said it would not follow the new ministry orders.
Reacting to the news that even the court had given its nod to the government guidelines, a top IOA official said, “We will not follow them. We follow the Olympic Charter, which says that if we lose our autonomy, or if there is an external interference, we will face sanctions.”
On Tuesday, IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh, armed with letters from the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), had voiced his concern about IOC sanctions.
But the ministry launched a broadside on Singh on Wednesday saying, “The IOA secretary-general, it has to be regrettably emphasised, is an independent member from India on the IOC and has clearly a conflict of interest on the tenure issue in view of his 23-year-long continuous tenure as secretary-general of the IOA.”
Singh termed the ministry's e-mail unfortunate and said, “It's sad that the government has reacted like this. It's a personal attack and the government has questioned my credibility as an IOC member. I shall answer them on Thursday.”
An e-mail sent by Rajesh Malhotra, Director (Media Communications), Sports Ministry, said, “The government is immediately sending to the highest authorities in IOC, a detailed response on the matter… It is also proposed that, in order to have a thorough and conclusive discussion on the subject, the government would depute a senior official to the IOC headquarters at a mutually convenient date to sort out the matter across the table.”
The fight is over the ministry's order restricting the terms of NSF presidents to 12 years and that of other officials to eight years. The ministry has also restricted the maximum age to hold office to 70 years.
Citing the 2009 Delhi High Court observations, the e-mail said, “The tenure regulations were valid, binding and enforceable, and could not be blocked by executive instructions… these regulations were not in violation of the Olympic Charter.” However the IOA said they did not fall within the ambit of the judiciary or the legislation. “The Olympic Charter clearly states we are outside judicial jurisdiction.”