The Delhi High Court on Friday suspended the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) and directed the appointment of an administrator, saying that its faith was shaken in view of the sports body’s “sorry state of affairs”.
Justice Rekha Palli, who was dealing with the petition filed by the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Khel Ratna awardee Manika Batra, said that the report of the three-member committee, constituted by it to look into the allegations of match-fixing levelled by the paddler, showed that TTFI “safeguarded the interests of its officials” and that “instead of promoting players, TTFI is dictating terms”.
The judge said that this country takes pride in its sportsperson and people who don’t understand how players are to be treated “should be out”.
The name of the administrator along with other relevant details concerning the appointment will be given in the court order.
Batra, who was left out of the Indian contingent for the Asian Table Tennis Championships, had moved the court last year alleging that the national coach Soumyadeep Roy pressurized her to throw away an Olympic qualifier match in favour of one of his personal trainees.
Based on the findings of the report, the court remarked that TTFI’s conduct prima facie appears to be blameworthy and that the national coach was appointed in a clear conflict of interest.
“There has to be an inquiry. You are appointing a coach in conflict of interest. Your coach is running a private academy. What is happening? You have a national coach who is running an academy in his own name and asking her to lose a match,” said Justice Palli who asserted that the rot in the system has to set out.
“The report reveals a sorry state of affairs. The court is appalled to note some of the observations made by the committee with regard to the manner in which respondent no 1 (TTFI) and respondent no 3 (national coach) were functioning,” the court observed.
The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that while there was material to proceed against TTFI under the Sports Code, the government has no objection if the court appoints an independent committee to carry out a further inquiry if needed.
The court said that at this stage, it would only appoint an administrator to run TTFI while deferring passing an order with respect to any further inquiry.
“These people should be out of this, people who don’t understand how players are to be treated, to give them dignity. These people are the pride of the nation. These people (TTFI officials) have to be suspended,” the judge remarked during the hearing.
“In view of the circumstances, the court is left with no option but to appoint an administrator… The Executive Committee of the respondent no 1 will no longer be allowed to take any decision or interfere in the manner in which the administrator decides to discharge the duties assigned to him under the Code,” the court dictated in its order as it clarified that since there are a number of tournaments coming up, it was expected that the present management will render all assistance to the administrator.
The court observed that if it does not appoint an administrator in the matter, it would be failing in its duty.
“This is somebody who is a recognised player. There will be young girls and boys who look up and maybe very good but unless they tow the lines of these people in the (executive) committee in the federation, they are not allowed to come up. That is what is coming out of it and that has to stop,” Justice Palli said.
“It has shaken the faith of the court in the federation. This is not how it should work,” she also stated.
The court granted liberty to the petitioner as well as TTFI and other parties to file their response to the report of the three-member committee and listed the case for further hearing on April 13.
TTFI, represented by senior advocate Anupam Lal Das, opposed the appointment of an administrator by the court and said that the present case was not adversarial.
The court asked that a copy of the report be given to the International Table Tennis Federation by the administrator so that appropriate action can be taken by it in relation to the show cause notice issued to Batra.
In November last year, the court had constituted a three-member committee under the chairmanship of former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Vikramjit Sen to look into paddler Manika Batra’s allegation of a match-fixing attempt by the national coach.
In the petition, the paddler has claimed that TTFI was carrying out its selection processes in a non-transparent manner and targeting certain individuals such as herself.
The petition has asserted that the national coach, in a clear conflict of interest, was running a private table tennis academy simultaneously and on one occasion, pressurized the petitioner to throw away a match only with a view to help one of his trainees at his private academy to qualify for the Olympics.