Centre, Delhi HC in legal battle over relaxation clause in Sports Code

The Sports Ministry earlier this month introduced a new ‘relaxation clause’ to the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011, allowing government the power to relax provisions while deciding on grant of recognition to federations and the management of the Indian Olympic Association. 

 A circular was released in this regard, which read: “Government shall have the power to relax any of the provisions of the National Sports Code of India, 2011 and other instructions issued with regard to recognition of National Sports Federations (NSFs).”

The development came amidst government’s ongoing legal battle with the Delhi High Court for granting annual recognition to NSFs over non-compliance with Sports Code.

It further stated that the sports ministry’s power to relax the sports code will cover “renewal of recognition of NSFs on annual basis and governance and management of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and NSFs, as a special exemption where considered necessary.”

The circular also mentioned that the power to relax the provisions will vest with the Minister In-charge of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

As per a report in PTI, the sports code has been mired in controversy with several NSFs and the IOA opposing its age and tenure cap regulations for office-bearers before finally coming around in the last couple of years.

According to the circular, the discretionary relaxation of norms can only be done “for the promotion of sports, sportspersons or to remove difficulties in giving true effect to that particular provision of the Sports Code…”

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court had recently noted that sports federations which do not fall in line and comply with the Sports Code shouldn’t be entitled to receive any grants from the central government. 

In a fresh development the court on Friday directed the ministry to “get the National Sports Federations in order” and ensure that the bodies follow the sports code. The court also asked not consider any sort of relaxations while granting recognition to any sports body. 

As per another report in PTI, a high court bench of justice comprising Vipin Sanghi and Najmi Waziri are looking into the matter.  

“Get the NSFs (National Sports Federations) in order. Why is it difficult for them to adhere to the sports code,”the bench said to the central government while issuing a notice to it and seeking its stand on a plea for stay of the recognitions granted to various sports federations which are allegedly not complying with the code.

“No relaxations in the interim while we are examining it,” the bench told central government standing counsel Anil Soni who was appearing for the Sports Ministry.

During the hearing, the bench also stated that it had “doubts” regarding the relaxations being granted by the ministry to the non-compliant federations for recognising them. “We have our doubts about the relaxations granted. If you are relaxing wholesale, then you have destroyed the sports code,” the court said.

The remarks made by the court came while hearing an application moved by advocate Rahul Mehra for stay of a clause introduced in the sports code on February 1 for granting exemptions or relaxations with regard to recognition of federations.

Mehra 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. 

– with PTI inputs 


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Sagar Biswas

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