Haryana CM puts on hold order seeking share of athletes’ income
In an embarrassing flip-flop, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday put on hold the order that would require athletes to hand over a third of their income earned through professional sports and commercial endorsements to the state, for the development of sports.
On Thursday, Hindustan Times was the first to report the April 27 sports department notification that ordered sportspersons employed by the state government to deposit one-third of their earnings from commercial and professional commitments to the state sports council for developing sports.
Khattar’s flip-flop has created a peculiar situation as the income earned by sporting icons from professional and commercial endorsements during this period will not have the legitimate backing of a government order. The notification was formulated to legitimise the income earned by the employed sportspersons through professional and commercial endorsements. Such conditions are already in force for other government employees.
“The notification was formulated since the state government had given an undertaking in the Punjab and Haryana high court that the sports department will be asked to modify service rules for sportspersons employed by the government to allow them to sign contracts, endorsements and participate in professional games,” said a state government official.
Following a hue and cry, Khattar tweeted that he has asked the sports department to show him the file and the notification be put on hold till further orders. His remarks came as a surprise as he had himself approved the conditions.
Alok Verma, the aide-de-camp (ADC) to the CM, had written on the file that the chief minister has approved the conditions of parting of one-third income earned by sportspersons.
Olympic medal winning boxer Vijender Singh, also a Haryana Police DSP, who turned professional in 2015, hockey player Sardara Singh and wrestler Geeta Phogat will be affected by the decision. Singh played the India Hockey League, while Phogat has done endorsements for JSW Steel. Phogat publicly disagreed with the condition.
ALREADY IN FORCE FOR GOVT STAFF
The condition of depositing one-third income earned through professional sports and commercial endorsements with the government is applicable for every government employee under the Punjab Civil Services Rules (as applicable to Haryana). The notification listing conditions for sportspersons employed by the government is an interpretation of the provisions.
Rule 5.55 of Punjab Civil Services Rules says that a competent authority may permit a government employee to receive an honorarium as remuneration for work performed which is occasional or intermittent in character and of such special merit as to justify a special reward. The acceptance of remuneration, however, has to be first approved by the authority. The rules say one-third of the total amount of any fee or remuneration...paid to a government employee shall be credited to general revenue.
GENESIS OF THE ISSUE
Olympian Vijender was at the centre of a debate in 2015, prompting a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Punjab and Haryana high court, when he turned professional and signed a contract with UK-based Queensberry. The Haryana home department told the court that Vijender did not inform it about the contract.
The state government came to the sportspersons’ rescue by stating before the court that service rules for outstanding athletes who brought laurels to the country at the international level and were recruited by the government as sport icons needs to be modified to allow them leave and permission to sign contracts, endorsements and participate in professional games as they have a limited shelf-life at the international and national levels.