The Delhi High Court has appointed retired Supreme Court judge A K Sikri as administrator to oversee the utilisation of funds for the ISSF World Cup to be held in India in March while allowing release of money by the Centre to the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to be used for the event.
The high court was hearing an application by the NRAI seeking modification of a June 2022 order by which the court had directed that no money or assistance shall be provided to national sports federations (NSFs) that are not complying with the National Sports Code. The NRAI sought the release of funds citing the World Cup for the shooting sport it is holding in March 2023.
The application was filed in a petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra to ensure compliance with the Sports Code by the NSFs.
Disposing of the application, the high court said, “The prestige of the country will be affected if there is any impediment in organising the World Cup event which would require funding from the Union of India.
“Hon’ble Mr. Justice (Retd.) Arjan Kumar Sikri, former judge Supreme Court of India, is appointed as an Administrator to oversee the utilisation of funds in the World Cup event that is being held in India in March, 2023. The Administrator can also take the assistance of any sportsperson of his choice, who has been a national or international shooter, to assist him in the matter.
It said the administrator shall be free to fix his remuneration commensurate with the work and the same will be paid by the Union of India.
“The funds released must get the concurrence of the Administrator. Let a report be furnished in a sealed cover before this court after the conclusion of the event,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said in an order passed on Thursday and made available on Friday.
The NRAI, in its application for vacation/ modification of the June 2 and 3, 2022 orders stated that it has affected the smooth functioning of the NSFs as the entire working capital has come to a standstill.
It said India is hosting the World Cup for the shooting sport in March and stoppage of funds would affect the hosting of the event. The NRAI said it is dependent on the central government for the conduct of international events in India and various activities including training of the shooters and their participation in international events.
Mehra, who was appearing in person in the matter, objected to the application, saying that NRAI has approached the court with the plea at the last minute and granting any latitude to it will result in further applications being filed before the court by other sport federations which are in complete violation of the Sports Code.
He gave an ad-hoc solution that a committee comprising a retired judge of the high court and Abhinav Bindra, shooter and the first individual Olympic gold medal winner for India, be constituted to oversee the World Cup event. He suggested that the funds which are proposed to be released must be routed through the committee that should furnish its report in a sealed cover to the court after conclusion of the event.
The court said Mehra’s suggestion is a fair solution and the proposal was also not opposed by the counsel for the Centre and NRAI.
In its June 3, 2022 order, the high court had also directed the Centre to ensure that no money and patronage is given to those NSFs which are not functioning in compliance with the law concerning administration of sports in the country.
The NSFs which were not compliant shall be put on notice of suspension, it had said.
The court was earlier informed by the Joint Secretary of the Sports Ministry that concerted efforts were underway to ensure that compliances were made by the end of June 2022 and that while 15 NSFs were adhering to the Sports Code, six had been granted exemption.
Five NSFs need to amend their constitution and 17 required major changes, the court was told.
The court had earlier noted the Centre had claimed to have 59 recognised NSFs and there can be “no latitude apropos expending monies on entities who do not qualify for it in law”.
It had said compliance with the Sports Code is a must for 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.