IN WHAT has come as a major relief to Dipika Pallikal, the Delhi High Court on Friday issued show-cause notices to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Squash Racquet Federation of India (SRFI), demanding why the 16-year-old player had not been selected for the Asian Championship to be held in Kuwait from February 14 to 21.
Issuing the notices, Justice Gita Mittal said only a team selected on the basis of established merit be sent to Kuwait. Justice Mittal said that there could be no yardstick other than merit for selecting a team.
She said urgent orders should be passed to ensure that a team "truly representing the merit of the Indian players" competes at the international level. The judge also took notice of the Pallikal's plea that no formal announcement had been made of the Kuwait-bound team, saying that the matter deserved immediate attention.
Earlier Pallikal's advocate, Roma Bhagat, had submitted that the petitioner was a top national-level player and was ranked 62nd by the WISPA (Women's International Squash Professional Association). She said Pallikal she had been overlooked, even as lower-ranked players like Surbhi Misra (156th), Anwesha Reddy (124th) and unranked Harita Omprakash were picked ahead of her up in the squad.
The SRFI has maintained that since Pallikal had not sought an exemption from the Chennai camp (January 14 to 19), and hence she had not been considered for the Asians. Bhagat, however, said Pallikal had sent an e-mail to the SRFI, requesting exemption from the Chennai camp saying she had sustained a back injury while training with her Egyptian coach. The advocate also said that Pallikal had played the British Open despite the back injury with capsicum patches as treatment.
It may be recalled that national coach Cyrus Poncha had said that male players had been exempted because they were "professionals", while women could not be exempted as they were "not".
Bhagat pointed out that women's squash was governed by the WISPA, a professional body, and they had an international ranking system in place. She said that India's top squash player Joshna Chinappa was ranked 43rd, while Pallikal was 62nd.
Justice Mittal pointed out that the SRFI and the SAI had adopted two different criteria for the selection of men and women's team. The judge said that prima facie it was impermissible, adding that Pallikal was acknowledged internationally. The case has been listed for February 12.
The advocate also pointed out anomalies in the men's team selection, where the credentials of Sandeep Jhangra had been bypassed.