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How Delhi High Court Ended Narinder Batra's Juggernaut As India's Top Sports Administrator

Narinder Batra abused his position as a 'life member' and his election as Hockey India president was illegal, said the court.

How Delhi High Court Ended Narinder Batra's Juggernaut As India's Top Sports Administrator
Narinder Batra's term as IOA president has been ended by the Delhi High Court. Photo: Outlook

Narinder Batra, the man who ran the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) with an iron fist since 2017, has been 'exposed' and overthrown by the Delhi High Court. (More Sports News)

In its 30-page order on Wednesday, the Delhi High Court has said that the 65-year-old Batra had abused his position as a 'life member' to illegally become the president of Hockey India and then navigate his way to become boss of the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

The matter was brought to the court's notice by former hockey international and Olympian Aslam Shar Khan in 2020. The 1975 Hockey World Cup-winning Khan questioned the appointment of certain positions in Hockey India, including that of a CEO through whom all major operational matters were being executed.

The court observed that Hockey India created certain positions which were against the National Sports Code. Batra's position as a 'life member' was untenable, according to the two-judge bench of Justice Nazmi Waziri and Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma. HI's website also lacks transparency, pointed out observers.

Special Officers Appointed

The court has appointed a three-man Committee of Administrators (CoA) to take over HI's administration with immediate effect. The CoA will consist of former Supreme Court judge Justice Anil R. Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and ex-India captain Zafar Iqbal.

In less than a week, Indian courts have taken a strong view against errant and power-crazy sports administrators.

On May 18, the Supreme Court-appointed a CoA to oversee the administration of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and conduct elections which are due since December 2020. The apex court effectively ended Praful Patel's extended stay as AIFF president.

A turf war between Narinder Batra and Hockey India surfaced recently after he sent a terse communica
A turf war between Narinder Batra and Hockey India surfaced recently after he sent a terse communication to the federation. File Photo

Justice Dave and Quraishi are on both CoAs. Since Delhi High Court has followed Supreme Court's policy, Batra is in no position to challenge anything, say legal observers. Batra has no option left, legally or morally, they added.

Clever Move

Critics have called Batra's decision to "not contest IOA elections" as a smart move.

"He knew what was coming. That mail which Batra circulated through WhatsApp was nothing but a facing-saving measure. He had projected himself as a crusader for Indian sports. Now he stands badly exposed," said a senior functionary of the IOA on condition of anonymity.

Since the court has clearly questioned Batra's unethical ways of functioning, his position as the president of the FIH also comes under doubt. In 2021, Batra won a second term after a closely-fought election. Now his entire process of appointment to FIH lies bare.

In a strong observation, the court said: "Batra (R-3) knew fully well that the post of Life President and Life Member in a National Sports Federation (NSF) is illegal. He had been specifically intimated so by the Government of India.

Elana Norman (right) has been an illegal CEO, according to the court.
Elana Norman (right) has been an illegal CEO, according to the court. File Photo

"Yet when Hockey India was registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act 1860, on 28.05.2009 and was granted prompt recognition by the Government of India within a couple of days thereof, Batra went ahead and had himself appointed as Life Member of Hockey India. This smacks of brazen impertinence to the clear mandate of law."

What makes Batra's position in FIH wobbly is the court's order stating: "What a paradox, to make oneself permanent in an entity whose tenure itself is impermanent. The illegal Post of Life President or Life Member cannot be the stepping-stone for any other position or benefit elsewhere, be it nationally (including in the Indian Olympic Association) or in international bodies. If Batra has so benefitted, then such benefit or position shall end right away."

Batra's removal means that his membership of the International Olympic Committee will also come to an end as the coveted position was linked to his IOA presidency.

At a time when India are eyeing to host the Olympics one day, this entire episode with Narinder Batra in the eye of the storm, has painted a shady picture of India's sports administration.

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