Haunted Future of Gymnastics in India – The Federation Controversy

A sport is something that can motivate you to approach your goals strategically. Every sport is made up of sportspersons, fans, motivation, an agenda and its administrators. In India, each sport is regulated by its national and state sports federations, which are funded by Sports Authority of India (SAI) and acts as an autonomous body.

Before funds and the Government step into picture, a critical part to regulate sport and its activities on district, state and national level involves the sports federations and its officials those who decide, conduct and regulate all tournaments, championships, and camps and check over the sportspersons. For every sport, sports federations and its officials are responsible for organic development on the international front.

And to regulate the selection procedure in all National Sports Federations Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has passed a Sports Code which states-

  • The proposed legislation will support age and term limits for sports officials, whereby IOC members will have to give up their memberships at the end of the calendar year during which they reach the age of 70.
  • In case a member has completed two successive terms, he may be elected again after a minimum period of two years.
  • Federation presidents will be elected by secret ballot from among members for a term of eight years, renewable once for four years. The future of the specific sport depends on the officials of the federations because they are the backbone supporting and managing each and every aspect of that sport. But what turns around when these sports federations get into a trouble which haunts the whole future of sportspersons and the development of the sport.

Here, talking about the recent case of Gymnastics Federation of India the dispute between the previous members of the federation with the GFI has taken an ugly turn. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the National Artistic Gymnastics Championship, which was recently held in Gurgaon from 12th-15th of March.

The dispute started when Sudhakar Shetty of Maharashtra was elected as the president of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) in August 2015, replacing Jaspal Singh Kandhari.

The elections were for the four-year term and were attended by 35 members from 18 States and Units. Kandhari, the outgoing president who was in the fray for a third term, could not contest the elections as his nomination was rejected on the ground that he did not fill his address in the nomination form and the same happens for 12 other candidates whose nomination forms for various posts were rejected for the unfilled address which was required as per the rules.

Therefore, it ended up with the voting procedure only for the position of general secretary where there in the presence of Justice P K Bhasin (Retired Judge of Delhi High Court) acting as the Returning Officer in the presence of H S Bhadu, IOA Observer and R K Saxena, Government Observer

“All other positions including the position of president were declared as elected through uncontested returns since the number of valid nominations does not exceed the positions available,” said the GFI’s old statement.

Rishabh from Mohali and Sahil from Chandigarh two gymnasts have filed litigation to High Court on the matter of two National Federations of Gymnastics that is creating confusion among gymnasts regarding the credentials of certificates they are getting from the federations.

Now the question arises – how the whole situation is creating hurdles in the development of sports and what will be the future of gymnasts as its shows only negative picture that during an Olympic year federations are fighting on political matters instead of focussing on the sport.

We are waiting for the final decision of the court that will come out in April and declare who can conduct the final championships. I hope final decision will help the situation of gymnastics in our country because this dispute is creating a lot more trouble and affecting the career of gymnasts in getting employments on the basis of their career in gymnastics and certifications they have earned, said Shanti Kumar Singh (General Secretary, GFI).

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Ekta Khangawal

Founder and Editor, Law student at Faculty of Law, Law Centre I, University of Delhi

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