Centre to HC: Have power to relax sports code provisions for granting recognition to NSFs

The Centre on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it has the executive powers to relax the provisions of the Sports Code, with regard to grant of recognition to national sports federations (NSFs) “in light of the needs and dynamic circumstances”.

The submission by the Sports Ministry was made in an affidavit filed in response to an application for stay of a clause introduced in the sports code on February 1 for granting exemptions or relaxations with regard to recognition of federations.

Advocate Rahul Mehra, who filed the application, has claimed that by introducing the relaxation clause, the ministry was trying to “negate” or “nullify” the court’s orders to ensure the federations comply with the code before they are granted recognition.

The ministry, in its reply filed through central government standing counsel Anil Soni, has contended that there was “no overreach” on its part when it passed the February 1 order introducing the relaxation clause in the sports code.

“The government has passed the order dated February 1 completely within its executive powers and there is no order/judgement from any of the courts debarring the government from not exercising its executive powers. The Sports Code is a part of the policy of the government with respect to administration of sports.

“The government in the matter of administration is required to take various decisions from time to time depending on the need of the hour and entailing circumstances. In light of needs and dynamic circumstances, the relaxation of certain provisions of the Sports Code is permissible and well within the domain of the government,” the ministry has said in its affidavit.

It has further said that it always had the powers to grant relaxation and only to make it explicit the February 1 order was passed.

“There is nothing arbitrary in the relaxation clause unless one sees it with a blinkered vision,” it added.

The court on February 12 had asked the ministry to “get the NSFs in order” by ensuring they follow the sports code and not to give them any relaxations with regard to grant of recognition.

“Get the NSFs in order. Why is it difficult for them to adhere to the sports code,”a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Najmi Waziri had said to the central government

“We have our doubts about the relaxations granted. If you are relaxing wholesale, then you have destroyed the sports code,” the court had said and added “No relaxations in the interim while we are examining it.”

In its affidavit, the ministry has said that the power of relaxation would be “exercised as a special exemption where considered necessary and expedient for the promotion of sports, sportspersons” and would always be guided by the sports code.

It has also said that reasons have to be recorded in writing for invoking the relaxation clause and it also requires the approval of the Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

With regard to renewal of recognitions of some NSFs whose elections were due before December 31, 2020 and have conducted the same, the ministry has said the recognition has been extended for one year upto December 31, 2021 only after proper examination of their election results in terms of the provisions of the sports code.

“In any case, the condition of bringing their constitutions/bye-laws in line with the provisions with the sports code within six months from the date they were initially granted recognition in 2020, is still applicable to them.

“If they fail to do so, they run the risk of de-recognition even before the completion of the period for which the recognition has been renewed,” the ministry has said.

Mehra has filed the application in his main petition challenging the renewal of recognitions of around 41 NSFs.

In its affidavit, the ministry has said that the application and the petition are an attempt to hamper the government’s functioning and to keep it busy in litigation.

“..such malicious attempts of the petitioner are hampering the government functioning by constant judicial supervision of government functioning by the court.

“It is now taxing on both government’s energy and resources leading to wastage of precious time on tedious reporting, when the energy and time should have been spent on concentrating and monitoring the preparation and training of teams and sportspersons for international sports events, including the Olympic Games,” the ministry has said.

On January 8, the high court had said that the National Sports Code is the law and the federations which are not complying with it cannot be granted recognition.

It had asked the ministry to show that the federations which have been granted recognition are complying with the code.

On January 22, the court had directed the ministry to follow up with all the concerned sports federations on a regular basis and call for compliance reports from them with regard to all aspects of the sports code.

“The sports federations which do not fall in line and comply with the sports code do not deserve and would not be entitled to receive any grants from the central government,” it had said.

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