Delhi HC to pronounce judgment on challenge against exemption - Hindustan Times

Delhi HC to pronounce judgment on challenge against exemption

By, New Delhi
Jul 21, 2023 08:15 PM IST

Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved his order on the pleas after hearing the parties and said that he will declare his verdict today

The Delhi high court on Saturday will pronounce its judgment on pleas by wrestlers Antim Panghal and Sujeet Kalkal challenging the exemption granted to Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia for the Asian Games trials and seeking a fair selection process for the quadrennial showpiece.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat during a press conference.(Hindustan Times)
Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat during a press conference.(Hindustan Times)

Justice Subramonium Prasad reserved his order on the pleas after hearing the parties and said that he will declare his verdict on July 22, even though he did not specify the time. The trials for the Asian Games are scheduled for July 22 and July 23.

Also Read | Delhi High Court seeks WFI’s response on wrestlers’ plea challenging exemption

During the proceedings, the court wondered if it could interfere in the decision of an expert sports panel taken in the best interest of the country. The judge also saw merit in the stand of WFI that it exempted Phogat and Punia from trials as it doesn’t want its best prospects to suffer any injury before the Games.

“…The crux of the matter is you cannot say that the committee which has made the selection is acting against the national interest and that the persons who have been selected are so novices that they did not even went into consideration….And the reason given which is that we do not want them to go to the trials is because they are probably our best medal prospects and that we do not want them to suffer any injury in their trials…

“Is that not a reason sufficient for the court to not interfere or it is so perverse, that the court has to interfere”, justice Prasad asked Hrishikesh Barauh, the counsel appearing for Phogat and Punia.

Seeking to know why it should interfere in the decision, justice Prasad further said, “…At the end of the day….There is a committee of six persons, assuming two are not there, four of them have said that yes it is sufficient, then why should the court interfere in a matter of sports wherein you can’t say that the decision that they have taken is so perverse that the interests of the country will be jeopardized”?

The court said that if the procedure for the selection has been followed, then it will not interfere with the decision of the selection committee.

Advocate Baruah for the petitioner-wrestlers, contended that since Phogat and Punia were busy in the protests at Jantar Mantar in January, they have not practiced and did not even participate in the national camp. He said that the court will have to consider the national interests over everything as his clients have been working really hard to clinch this position.

He said that the two coaches, who are claimed to be a part of the meeting on July 12, have denied their participation in the meeting. However, the court refused to interfere in this aspect.

During the hearing, the counsel for WFI told the court that Phogat and Punia have already left for Hungary and Kazakhstan for their training. He said that there exists a power to exempt the players in the regulations available.

While opposing the petition, the WFI in its reply, has stated that selection of athletes representing the nation at international level is to be decided by experts and is out of the scope of judicial review.

“WFI respectfully submits that the present writ petition is misconceived and the reliefs as prayed for cannot and ought not to be granted by the court. Law is well settled that the decision as to who should represent India, in a sporting event, is best left to the experts. The scope of judicial review, in the respectful submission of WFI, is extremely limited and the writ court does not interfere in matters of selection of sports persons,” the WFI said in its reply.

It said that the regulation clearly envisages that the selection committee has the discretion to select the iconic players like the medalists of Olympics/ world championships without trial, provided recommendation by the chief coach/foreign expert.

The petition by Panghal and Kalkal has sought that the directive issued by the IOA ad-hoc committee with regards to the two categories (men's freestyle 65kg and women's 53kg) be quashed and the exemption granted to Bajrang and Vinesh be set aside.

The petition demanded that the trials should be held in a fair manner, without granting any exemption to any wrestler and the whole process be videographed.

Earlier, the IOA ad-hoc panel decided to exempt Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Vinesh (53kg) from the trials scheduled for July 22-23.

As per the ad-hoc panel directive, the trials will be conducted in all 18 weight categories, including the 65kg and 53kg but the winners will not compete in the Asian Games, rather they will be standby options.

In their plea filed through advocate Akshay Kumar, the petitioners have claimed there are no foreign experts and the decision to exempt Punia and Phogat has been taken without any recommendations from the chief

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