A bench headed by Justice Nazmi Waziri said compliance with the Sports Code is a must for the grant of recognition as an NSF and unless the entity strictly adheres to the code, it would disentitle itself from any consequential benefits flowing from public fund, such as the use of government-owned stadia and sports facilities.
The court noted that “most NSFs” do not meet the mandatory 25 per cent representation of sportspersons in their managing committee and stated that “there comes a stage in the affairs of governance when the recalcitrant have to be called-out and there has to be cessation of their unlawfully enjoying government largesse, a privilege for which they do not qualify.”
“No NSF or sports entity should be seen to be receiving benefits which are unjust. Fairness and legitimacy need to imbue all governmental affairs. Therefore, it is prudent, indeed imperative that no further exemptions be granted to or lenience be shown to non-compliant NSFs,” stated the bench, also comprising Justice Vikas Mahajanin its order dated May 26.
“Compliance with the Sports Code is a must. It is the sine qua non for grant of recognition as a NSF and for access to the corollary benefits that flow from such status. The benefits are in various forms: tax benefits, travel concessions, accommodation and hospitality accorded to players and officials of NSFs, use of government-owned stadia and sports facilities,” the court said.
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“All this expense is made from public funds… Unless a NSF/sports entity/registered society/Association strictly adheres to and fully complies with the Sports Code and the court orders, it would disentitle itself from any such benefit,” the court added.
The court’s order was passed on a writ petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra to ensure the compliance with the Sports Code by the NSFs.
The petitioner stated that in spite of more than a decade having gone by, many NSFs continue to breach the Sports Code and its strict mandates while simultaneously enjoying governmental grants, concessions and recognition.
The central government, represented by counsel Anil Soni, stated that notices have been issued to all NSFs calling upon them to put their house in order and that some more time may be granted to ensure robust compliance with and conformity with the legal regime governing sports administration.
“Let Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India ensure that the constitution of NSFs concerned Gymnastics, Handball, National Yogasana, Tennis Volleyball, Mallkhamb and Motor Sports as well as Equestrian, Rowing, Golf, Squash Racket, Yachting, Polo is made available by them to the Ministry by the coming Monday,” the court ordered.
“The same will be examined preferably during the course of the week and to the extent that they are not in compliance with the Sports Code, directions/ notices shall be issued apropos suspension of their recognition. An affidavit in this regard shall be filed by a Joint Secretary in the said Ministry with the prior approval of the Secretary (Sports),” the court said.
The court opined that the writ petition was pending since 2020 and “fifteen months is a long time to ensure compliance, otherwise, it was always open to the respondent to suspend the recognition of NSFs which are in blatant breach”.
“Twelve years is a long time to enable sports bodies to conform to the Sports Code. The time to stop is now,” the court said.
The matter would be heard next on June 2.