Delhi HC asks Centre, WFI to reply to wrestlers’ plea against federation elections


PTI, Mar 4, 2024, 4:35 PM IST

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought responses of the Centre and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on a petition filed by wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and her husband Satyawart Kadian for declaring as illegal the December 2023 elections held by the sports body and setting it aside.

Justice Sachin Datta issued notice to the Central government, WFI and Ad-Hoc Committee of WFI on the petition.

The court granted time to the central government’s standing counsel Anil Soni to get instructions in the matter and listed the plea for further hearing on March 7.

The wrestlers, represented through senior advocate Rahul Mehra, were at the forefront of last year’s protest at Jantar Mantar here demanding the arrest of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of seven women grapplers.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan represented the WFI.

The plea contended that the WFI elections, held on December 21, 2023, were in blatant violation of Sports Code and sought a direction to the federation to ”cease and desist” from undertaking any activity pertaining to the sport of wrestling.

Sanjay Kumar Singh, a close associate of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was elected as the new president of the WFI during the election.

”The petitioner prays the court may be pleased to set aside and declare elections held by R2/WFI on December 21, 2023 as illegal and void ab-initio since the same has been held in blatant violation of the sports code,” the petition said.

The petitioners have accused the WFI of several wrongdoing. ”The present writ petition is being filed by the petitioners inter alia assailing, challenging, and seeking directions against the illegal action of the suspended Wrestling Federation of India conducting selection trials for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament notified through its circular dated February 26, 2024 against the directives of the ad-hoc Committee for Wrestling Federation of India,” the petition said.

”The petitioners would like to place on record that apart from them, there are many other athletes/wrestlers who are also facing similar harassment owing to their upright/honest stand against respondent no. 2/WFI and its officials over the illegalities by respondent no.2 in collusion and under instructions of respondent no. 2’s/WFI former President and member of Parliament from Kaiserganj constituency namely Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The petitioners have accused the WFI of trying to silence and sideline them, impacting their prospects of participating in international events.

”Every possible means have been deployed by respondent no. 2/WFI to muffle the voices of the protesting petitioners and deprive them from any future scope of participation at the international level irrespective of their merit and competence,” it added.

The petitioners have sought a direction to the ad-hoc committee to continue taking care of the day-to-day affairs and management of the WFI or, in the alternative, appoint a retired Supreme Court judge as an administrator to take over the affairs and management of the body.

The petition claimed the WFI has been a ”habitual offender” as it has deliberately flouted directions passed by the Sports Ministry and the ad-hoc committee on multiple occasions, adversely affecting the career prospects of Indian wrestlers.

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