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Sports Ministry suspends newly-elected WFI for flouting rules

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New Delhi: The Sports Ministry on Sunday suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), three days after it elected new office bearers, for not following the provisions of its own constitution while taking decisions and also asked IOA to constitute an ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the sports body.

In suspending the WFI, the government cited its “hasty announcement” of organising the U-15 and U-20 nationals “without following due procedure and not giving sufficient notice to wrestlers” for preparations.

Hours after getting elected as WFI President on Thursday, Sanjay Singh had announced that age group national championships will be held from December 28 in Gonda, UP.

The ministry felt the new WFI body was working under the complete control of its former office-bearers, which was not in conformity with the National Sports Code.

Soon after WFI’s suspension, BJP chief JP Nadda called Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for a meeting after which the former WFI boss announced that he was taking “retirement from the sport”.

“The new body has not followed the WFI constitution. The Federation stands suspended till further orders. WFI will not be taking care of day to day activities of wrestling. They need to follow the due process and the rules,” a sports ministry official told PTI.

The source explained further the reasons for WFI’s suspension.

“This announcement is hasty, without giving sufficient notice to wrestlers who are to take part in the said nationals and without following the provisions of the constitution of WFI.

“Such decisions are to be taken by Executive Committee, before which agendas are required to be placed for consideration. As per Article XI of the WFI constitution under the Heading ‘Notices and Quorum for Meetings’, minimum notice period for EC meeting is 15 clear days and quorum is of 1/3rd of representatives.

“Even for Emergency EC meeting, minimum notice period is 7 clear days with quorum requirement of 1/3rd of representatives.”

The ministry also did not appreciate the fact that WFI Secretary General Prem Chand Lochab, who won from the rival Anita Sheoran-panel, was not consulted before taking decisions.

“It seems Secretary General has not been involved in the said meeting of EC, which was held without any notice or quorum,” the source added.

The source added that the new body had started functioning from the same premises (Brij Bhushan’s official bungalow) where the previous office-bearers operated and where the alleged sexual harassment of the players had taken place.

“Newly-elected body appears to be in complete control of former office-bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code.

WFI chief Sanjay Singh told PTI that they will seek revocation of the federation’s suspension by explaining to the government that they have not flouted any rules and if the issue is not resolved, they may explore legal options.

“We are seeking time from the sports minister and will request him that the suspension be lifted. If the issue is not resolved through dialogue, we could explore legal options,” Sanjay Singh said.

“We will explain that we have followed rules in taking decisions. We will present the proofs. Whatever decisions were taken, were taken by consensus. It was not my personal decision. 24 state associations had given affidavits and we have got e-mails, we have everything in writing,” the sports administrator added.

Sakshi Malik, one of the prominent faces of the agitation against former Brij Bhushan, welcomed the ministry move.

“It is the first step towards something good happening. I hope the government understands more the cause we were fighting for,” Malik, who had announced her retirement from sports after the WFI elections, said.

“If a woman federation president is there, it will be better for the safety of women wrestlers. It was a fight for sisters and daughters of the country,” she added.

Bajrang Punia, who had returned his Padma Shri medallion to the government on Friday in protest over election of Brij Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh, said he won’t take back his award.

“Now that I have returned it, I am not going to take it back. The honour of our sisters and daughters is bigger than any award. All of you have seen what is happening,” the Tokyo Games bronze medal winner told PTI.

“I will think about taking it back only after justice is delivered. The matter is in court and we are waiting for justice,” he added.

Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh Phogat had accused Brij Bhushan of sexually exploiting women wrestlers during his tenure as WFI president

After his meeting with Nadda, Brij Bhushan announced that he won’t be involved in the running of WFI anymore.

“I served wrestling for 12 years, good or bad only time will tell. I have taken retirement from wrestling. I am breaking my relationship with the sport.

“Now whatever decision has to be taken, whether to liaise with the government or handling the legal processes, those decisions will be taken by the elected members. The Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and I have to move ahead,” he said.

Brij Bhushan clarified that the decision to hold the U15 and U20 Nationals was taken in haste because he did not want the young players to lose one precious year of their careers.

“In haste, the old committee had to take the decision to organise the U15 and U20 Nationals because on December 31 the competition cycle (of year 2023) was ending and if those tournaments happen after that, one full year of the wrestlers would have been wasted,” said Brij Bhushan.

Tarun Pareek, under secretary to the Government of India, wrote to Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha, requesting her to constitute an ad-hoc panel at the earliest.

“It becomes incumbent on part of the IOA to make suitable arrangements for the interim for managing the affairs of WFI so that sports persons of wrestling discipline do not suffer,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, the opposition leaders said the government’s decision was not enough to give justice to the protesting wrestlers and questioned why a loyalist of Brij Bhushan was allowed to contest the elections.

“By suspending the committee if the BJP-led ministry thinks they are absolving themselves from not helping the women wrestlers, they are mistaken,” Sharad Pawar-led NCP’s national spokesperson Clyde Crasto said on X.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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