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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to take a “clear stand” on certain aspects raised by the court concerning the management of the suspended Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) after the dissolution of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) appointed ad-committee running the affairs of the suspended body.

The Delhi HC asked the joint secretary concerned in the Ministry to appear through video conferencing on April 10, when the matter will be heard next.

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The HC was hearing an application filed in a pending writ petition moved by wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and her husband Satyawart Kadian for declaring as illegal and setting aside the December 2023 elections held by Wrestling Federation of India.

The application sought, among various prayers, a direction for immediate appointment of a ‘one man committee’, preferably a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge to take over the management, control and administration of Wrestling Federation of India.

It also sought that WFI’s suspension be not revoked until the main matter is decided.

A single-judge bench of Justice Sachin Datta took note of the affidavit filed by the Ministry and observed, “Unfortunately the said affidavit is vague and does not deal with the salient aspects of the matter”.

The HC observed that the affidavit “does not take a position on” whether the suspension of the WFI through the Ministry’s December 24, 2023 order “continues to subsist or not”, the “circumstances” which led to the ad-hoc committee to be disbanded and on “who is in charge of affairs” of the WFI after disbanding of the ad hoc committee.

The HC thereafter granted an opportunity to the Ministry to file an affidavit “taking a clear stand on these issues” raised by the court within a week.

“The concerned joint secretary of the Ministry shall join the proceedings on the next date of hearing through video conferencing. The IOA…is also directed to file an affidavit indicating the circumstances in which the order of March 18 came to be issued whereby the ad hoc committee appointed by it has been dissolved. Let the concerned director of the IOA also remain present on the next date of hearing,” the HC said.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rahul Mehra appearing for the petitioner wrestlers had emphasized that the prayers in the application be allowed. He said that the WFI was suspended by the Ministry through its order of December 24, 2023.

He said that an ad-hoc committee came to be appointed for managing the Wrestling Federation of India’s affairs pursuant to a letter dated December 24, 2023 addressed by the Centre to the President of the Indian Olympic Association. Subsequently, on December 27, 2023 the ad hoc body was constituted by the IOA to manage the day-to-day affairs of Wrestling Federation of India; however on March 18 the adhoc body was disbanded by the IOA even though the WFI continues to be suspended.

Mehra said that in these circumstances since Wrestling Federation of India is “rendered headless” it is important that “an administrator is appointed to manage the affairs” of the suspended federation.

Meanwhile Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for the Wrestling Federation of India, said the affidavits should state what stand the authorities are taking in light of the “revocation of the federation’s suspension by the United World Wrestling (UWW) as well as the recognition of the Wrestling Federation of India elections by the world body”.

On March 22, the HC had sought the stand of the respondents — including the Ministry to the application and had listed it on Tuesday.

In the previous hearing Mehra had submitted that IOA’s March 18 office order stated that the dissolution of the ad-hoc body was taken in the light of the “lifting of the ban on the WFI by the United World Wrestling (UWN) and the successful completion of Selection Trials by the ad hoc Committee appointed by the IOA as per the directives of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi”.

The letter stated that there was “no further need for running the activities” of the Wrestling Federation of India through an ad hoc committee.

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