The Delhi High Court has suspended the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) Executive Committee for six months, with an administrator to be appointed in a week, and also found that national coach Soumyadeep Roy indulged in match-fixing during the Olympic qualifiers in March.
Justice Rekha Palli, who was dealing with the petition filed by the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Khel Ratna awardee Manika Batra, said that the report of the three-member committee, constituted by it to look into the allegations of match-fixing levelled by the paddler, showed that TTFI safeguarded the interests of its officials and that instead of promoting players, TTFI is dictating terms.
The judge said that this country takes pride in its sportsperson and people who don’t understand how players are to be treated should be out.
The name of the administrator along with other relevant details concerning the appointment will be given in the court order.
Batra, who was left out of the Indian contingent for the Asian Table Tennis Championships, had moved the court last year alleging that the national coach Soumyadeep Roy pressurized her to throw away an Olympic qualifier match in favour of one of his personal trainees.
Based on the findings of the report, the court remarked that TTFI’s conduct prima facie appears to be blameworthy and that the national coach was appointed in a clear conflict of interest.
There has to be an inquiry. You are appointing a coach in conflict of interest. Your coach is running a private academy. What is happening? You have a national coach who is running an academy in his own name and asking her to lose a match, said Justice Palli who asserted that the rot in the system has to set out .
The report reveals a sorry state of affairs. The court is appalled to note some of the observations made by the committee with regard to the manner in which respondent no 1 (TTFI) and respondent no 3 (national coach) were functioning, the court observed.
The centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that while there was material to proceed against TTFI under the Sports Code, the government has no objection if the court appoints an independent committee to carry out a further inquiry if needed.
The court said that at this stage, it would only appoint an administrator to run TTFI while deferring passing an order with respect to any further inquiry.
These people should be out of this, people who don’t understand how players are to be treated, to give them dignity. These people are the pride of the nation. These people (TTFI officials) have to be suspended, the judge remarked during the hearing.
In view of the circumstances, the court is left with no option but to appoint an administrator… The Executive Committee of the respondent no 1 will no longer be allowed to take any decision or interfere in the manner in which the administrator decides to discharge the duties assigned to him under the Code, the court dictated in its order as it clarified that since there are a number of tournaments coming up, it was expected that the present management will render all assistance to the administrator.
The court observed that if it does not appoint an administrator in the matter, it would be failing in its duty.
This is somebody who is a recognised player There will be young girls and boys who look up and maybe very good but unless they tow the lines of these people in the (executive) committee in the federation, they are not allowed to come up. That is what is coming out of it and that has to stop, Justice Palli said.
It has shaken the faith of the court in the federation. This is not how it should work, she also stated.
The court granted liberty to the petitioner as well as TTFI and other parties to file their response to the report of the three-member committee and listed the case for further hearing on April 13.
TTFI, represented by senior advocate Anupam Lal Das, opposed the appointment of an administrator by the court and said that the present case was not adversarial.
The court asked that a copy of the report be given to the International Table Tennis Federation by the administrator so that appropriate action can be taken by it in relation to the show cause notice issued to Batra.
India’s star paddler Manika Batra had filed a case in September last year, accusing Roy of asking her to lose a match so that his student Sitirtha Mukherjee qualifies for the Summer Games. At Tokyo Olympics, the world number 56 had refused to be coached by Roy, saying she would not have been able to focus on her match if someone who asked to her indulge in match-fixing months earlier was sitting by her side.
Manika Batra, in a show-cause notice from TTFI, had denied that she brought disrepute to the game by refusing Roy’s help after she refused his help in the singles competition of the Tokyo Games.
Though Manika’s coach Sanmay Paranjape was given access to training sessions in Tokyo, he did not have the accreditation to enter the field of play and a request to upgrade his access card was denied.
Manika had moved court after she was not selected to represent India at the 25th Asian Table Tennis Team Championships, while she recently reached a career-high 50th, jumping six places in the women’s singles latest ITTF world rankings. Batra and G Sathiyan have also moved up to 11th in the mixed doubles rankings. Batra and Archana Kamath have moved up four places to sixth in the women’s doubles rankings.
(With inputs from PTI)