Manika Batra match-fixing allegation: Ex-SC judge Vikramjit Sen to head 3-member probe panel

The Delhi High Court has constituted a three-member committee under the chairmanship of former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Vikramjit Sen to look into the allegation by star table tennis player Manika Batra of a match-fixing attempt by the national coach. Another former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri and Arjuna Awardee and Padma Shri Winner athlete Gurbachan Singh Randhawa will also form part of the committee, said Justice Rekha Palli, while dealing with Batra’s petition against the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI).

Batra, who was left out of the Indian contingent for the Asian Table Tennis Championships, had moved the court earlier this year alleging that the national coach Soumyadeep Roy ‘pressurized’ her to ‘throw away’ an Olympic qualifier match in favour of one of his trainees. She also claimed that TTFI was carrying out its selection processes in a non-transparent manner and targeting certain individuals such as herself.

Given the ‘serious nature of allegations’ levelled by the petitioner, the judge requested the committee to conduct the inquiry as expeditiously as possible and submit its report preferably within four weeks. “However, since this Court had already directed on September 23, 2021, that the allegations levelled by the petitioner were required to be examined by an independent body other than the respondent no.1 (TTFI), and since the Committee appointed by the respondent no.2 (Centre) has failed to examine the same, it is deemed appropriate to appoint a three-member committee to examine the complaints of the petitioner made against respondent no.3 (national coach) and other officials of respondent no.1 in her correspondence dated August 14, 26 and September 17, 2021,” the court said in its order passed on November 17.

The court recorded that the parties would co-operate with the process and said that the committee would be free to adopt its own procedure subject to following the principles of natural justice. “Each of the three members of the Committee, including the Chairperson, will be paid a sum of Rs five lakhs each – which amount will be payable by the respondent no.1 Federation, as undertaken on its behalf by its counsel. The venue for the inquiry will be arranged by the respondent no.1 Federation in consultation with the Chairperson of the Committee, and the expenses thereof, along with secretarial services, if any, will also be borne by the respondent no.1 Federation,” it added.

In her petition, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Khel Ratna awardee have sought to quash TTFI’s rules mandating compulsory attendance at the National Coaching Camp for selection in international events. The petition by Batra, the country’s top-ranked woman player, has asserted that the national coach, in a clear conflict of interest, was running a private table tennis academy simultaneously and on one occasion, ‘pressurized the petitioner to throw away a match only to help one of his trainees at his private academy to qualify for the Olympics, 2020’.

The paddler had subsequently asserted that she was being targeted by the national federation for raising her grievances in the court and now the international federation was also treating her like an accused. On November 16, TTFI stated that the executive board of the sports body has decided to recall the show cause as well as all consequential actions against the paddler and urged the court to allow it to prove it’s bonafide.

Earlier, the Centre had stated that the federation’s rule on compulsorily attending the national camp was in the teeth of the sports code and defeated merit. TTFI had defended the rule and stated that such a mandate was present in other sports as well including weight lifting and judo.

While staying the rule on September 23, the court had said that mandatory attendance at the national camp was enforced ‘at a point when there was a complaint pending against the national coach’ and the same ‘does not inspire confidence’.

On November 15, the court had said that it did want any player to be unnecessarily harassed and asked TTFI to give a clean chit to the petitioner. In view of the report of an inquiry carried out by the Centre pursuant to its direction, the court had noted that no fault could be attributed to the player.

It had also pulled up the TTFI for ‘overreaching’ its order directing an inquiry by the Centre into its affairs, saying it ‘will take suo motu contempt’.


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