To have expected the contrary would have been a stunner. The conclusion of the three-member commission of the Indian Olympic Association that Hockey India is the sole governing body for the game in the country surprised nobody but has fortified its protégé when the battle reaches the next level.
“There was overwhelming evidence to conclude that Hockey India is the central authority responsible to run the game”, Wrestling Federation of India president G S Mander, a member of the committee, had told PTI yesterday.
The problem with this conclusion is that the executioner (IOA) became judge and jury in a trial to decide the consequence of its actions. This is not a brief for the obdurate KPS Gill, but the Punjab super cop, former chief of the axed Indian Hockey Federation, had a valid point when he earlier said the committee to look into the issue of who is the rightful federation should have comprised neutral persons or a retired Supreme Court judge.
That said, the IOA finding may not be the final word on the issue as developments have already raced ahead. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) chief executive Kelly Fairweather has reportedly addressed a letter to the warring parties that the final decision on the issue (of recognition) will be taken at the FIH congress in Kuala Lumpur on November 3.
“…It has been made clear to the IOA that when it comes to which body to endorse…the IOA should disregard and place no weight on the fact that HI is currently recognized as a member of the FIH while the IHF is not,” Fairweather is reported to have written. The letter was excerpted in the DNA today and is reportedly in possession of a few other persons as well.
The FIH is in a pungent pickle of its own making. For close to a year now it is facing a suit in its judicial commission filed by the IHF over its de-recognition. Quite recently, its application for the dismissal of IHF’s complaint was reportedly summarily dismissed by its own judicial commission. The IHF’s plaint was that its de-recognition and the acceptance of HI’s membership (when it was not even in existence at that time) was “in breach of FIH’s own statutes” and that due process was not followed.
The FIH may have to pay IHF heavy damages if the final ruling goes against the world body, it is believed. It has already been asked to cough up a stiff penalty because of the dismissal of its application, the grapevine says. This however could not be confirmed. However, it seems the FIH’s is holding the card of a veto in the congress if the decision goes against it in the judicial commission.
“The clear legal advice the FIH has received is that, whatever the outcome of the proceedings currently before the judicial commission, moving forward the FIH will still have to decide which body currently meets the criteria for membership set out in Articles 6.1 and 6.3 of the FIH Statutes…,” Fairweather has said.
It seems clear that the embattled FIH still has a few tricks up its sleeve. By giving a chance to both HI and IHF to place their case before the congress the FIH is still keeping HI in the race even though it has no locus standi in the suit filed in the judicial commission. Wheels within wheels. The protocol laid down is that both parties will first have to file a written submission explaining the basis on which each maintains that it meets the membership criteria while the other party does not and then both parties will be give a chance to rebut each other’s arguments before Sept 21.
Be that as it may it was on the point of due process that in May 2010 the Delhi High Court overturned the IHF’s suspension and restored it to its original status, severely reprimanding the IOA in the bargain. The decision still stands. This is the crux of the issue which the IOA has conveniently skirted in its report by facetiously concluding that HI is the central authority responsible to run the game here. It is a moot point if the IOA will now again derecognize the IHF and be in breach of the Delhi High Court ruling.
Earlier, when the matter reached the Supreme Court, it had asked the Sports Ministry to mediate in the matter and the latter had suggested a compromise formula that sadly was not implemented because of the recalcitrance of one or both parties. HI was however given the mandate to enter national teams for international competitions leading up to the Olympics since it enjoyed the affiliation of the FIH. The question of running domestic hockey and the question of recognition was left in abeyance. The Sports Ministry has since de-recognised HI post-London Olympics and it cannot avail of central assistance now.
It also remains to be seen how IHF chooses to play its cards and if and when it will move the Supreme Court to enforce the Delhi High Court order now that there is no immediate international tournament of significance. And if the Supreme Court passes its order in favour of IHF whether the FIH will defy it and the Sports Ministry and continue to debar the IHF from fulfilling its international obligations.
It also remains to be seen whether KPS will wield the ‘gill-i danda’ to browbeat the FIH into submission by pursuing his criminal complaint over the misappropriation of the 2010 World Cup funds.
Hostilities in this no holds barred war for recognition could flare up soon.