WFI Retracts Circular on Selection Trials for Olympic Games, Informs Delhi HC

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), currently under suspension by the Centre, informed the Delhi High Court that it intends to retract its circular regarding the conduct of selection trials for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament.

Acknowledging the statement made by WFI’s counsel, Justice Sachin Datta directed that the trials proceed in accordance with the circular issued by the ad-hoc committee overseeing WFI’s affairs.

The ad-hoc committee of the WFI had previously announced in a press release on February 9 its intention to hold trials for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers (scheduled for April 19-21) and World Olympic Qualifiers (scheduled for May 9-12) on March 10 and 11 respectively, at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala, and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Sonipat.

The Indian Olympic Association formed a three-member ad-hoc committee on December 27 to manage WFI’s day-to-day operations following the suspension of the national wrestling body by the Union Sports Ministry. This action was taken due to WFI’s failure to adhere to the provisions of its own constitution when making decisions.

“After some arguments, Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan submits that WFI shall withdraw the circular. The trials shall proceed as per the circular of February 9. Needless to say that the Ad-Hoc Committee will ensure that all the eligible athletes are allowed to participate in the trial,” the court stated.

The court scheduled further hearing on the matter for April 26.

On March 4, the high court had sought responses from the Centre, WFI, and the ad-hoc committee on a petition filed by wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and her husband Satyawart Kadian. The petition sought to declare as illegal the December 2023 elections held by WFI and to nullify them.

The wrestlers were prominent figures in last year’s protest at Jantar Mantar, demanding the arrest of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of seven female grapplers.

The petition argued that the WFI elections held on December 21, 2023, violated the Sports Code and requested the federation to cease all wrestling-related activities. It also called for the Centre and WFI’s ad-hoc committee to ensure compliance with the National Sports Development Code, 2011, and to conduct national selection trials under the court’s supervision.

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

The petitioners accused WFI of various wrongdoings and stated that other athletes also faced harassment due to their opposition to WFI’s actions. They alleged that WFI sought to silence and sideline them, affecting their international participation prospects.

The petitioners sought the ad-hoc committee to continue managing WFI’s affairs or alternatively appoint a retired Supreme Court judge to oversee the wrestling body’s management. They claimed that WFI had repeatedly flouted directives from the Sports Ministry and the ad-hoc committee, negatively impacting Indian wrestlers’ career prospects.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte