The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) had blatantly contravened the government’s national Sports Code in its April 6 elections, which were subsequently declared null and void by the Delhi High Court recently.
One of the most important guidelines on which the recognition of national sports federations (NSFs) hinges is that “the state or union territory admitted as member in the NSF should have a minimum of 50% of district-level associations affiliated to it.”
In NRAI’s case, most of the north-eastern states, including Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, among others don’t have state associations, leave aside a network of district associations. But that didn’t stop the federation from fielding members for the April 6 elections.
The other states and union territories, where shooting is non-existent, yet the NRAI had members standing for key posts are Orissa, Andaman & Nicobar and Mizoram. Punjab, which produced the maximum Olympians in shooting, stands disaffiliated.
A look at the names of candidates and state associations they represented throws up startling facts. The NRAI president, Raninder Singh, represented Orissa. Senior vice-president, Avtar Singh Sethi, too represented Orissa, though his residence is in East Punjabi Bagh in New Delhi, while treasurer, Sanjeev Bahl, resides in Sainik Farms but represents Andaman & Nicobar.
The list is endless and had members of the Sethi family — mostly relatives of NRAI advisor, Baljeet Singh Sethi, senior vice-president, Avtar Singh Sethi, (both overage) and Jagmeet Singh Sethi — standing for almost all the top posts and representing states as far away as Orissa, Goa and other north-eastern states. Harman Singh Sethi and Prabdeep Singh Sethi, the grandson and son of Baljeet Sethi, represented Uttarakhand, though they stay in Delhi.
The Sports Code also states that, “While granting recognition/affiliation to a State/Union Territory Association the NSF should take into consideration the representative character of the State/UT Association so as to ensure that only truly representative body of the game gets the recognition.”
But in this case all states/UTs were given equal rights irrespective of the popularity of the sport in that particular state or union territory.
A top shooter questioned as to how Andaman & Nicobar, which has a non-existent association, can be given voting rights equal to other active units like the Army or Railways, which produces the maximum number of shooters.
The Sports Code also clearly states that while the federation is well within its rights to grant membership to individual clubs or persons, “such membership does not confer on such members the right to vote in any of the federation’s meetings”. But during the April 6 elections, eight individual members — four life and four annual members — voted, thus blatantly violating the code.
But Baljeet Sethi remained adamant. “We will contest the High Court verdict before a Double Bench soon.”
Reminded about NRAI officials from Delhi being made representatives from states as far as Meghalaya and Andaman & Nicobar, he said, :Since there is no shooting culture in these states, these officials from Delhi will be sent there to spread the culture. First, we need to develop a culture and then it will blossom,” he said.
But the copy of the minutes of the governing body of the NRAI clearly shows that the affiliation of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Orissa was never approved.