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Sports Ministry suspends WFI citing ‘blatant disregard for procedural norms’

The sports ministry on Sunday suspended the newly-elected executive committee of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), just three days after the new body, led by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s aide Sanjay Kumar Singh swept the polls. The ministry’s decision comes in the wake of Sanjay announcing the under-15 and under-20 Nationals in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda — less than 50 km from Brij Bhushan’s constituency of Kaiserganj — on the evening of December 21, the day he became WFI president after beating Anita Sheoran with a 40-7 margin.

BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh with the newly-elected president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) Sanjay Singh at the former’s residence(PTI)

Calling it “hasty,” the ministry noted that the prospective participants of the Nationals were not notified and the announcement was a contravention of the WFI’s constitution.

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“Shri Sanjay Kumar Singh, newly elected President of Wrestling Federation of India announced on 21.12.2023, the day he was elected as president, that U-15 and U-20 nationals for Wrestling will take place in Nandini Nagar, Gonda (UP) before the end of this year. 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,” a note from ministry, which HT has access to, said.

“As per clause 3 (e) of preamble of constitution of WFI, object of the WFI, among others, is to arrange holding of Senior, Junior and Sub Junior National Championships as per UWW Rules at places selected by the Executive Committee. 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,” it added.

The current 15-member WFI executive committee has two members from the protesting wrestlers’ camp — Prem Chand Lochab, who is the joint secretary and Devender Kadian, the senior vice-president. Lochab was not invited to the committee’s first meeting, held on the evening of December 21 where the decision on the nationals was taken.

“I don’t have a problem with nationals being held in Gonda. My problem is that no due process was followed. No notice was issued regarding this meeting and I, the joint secretary, was neither invited nor consulted,” Lochab said. On Saturday, wrestler Sakshi Malik, who had announced her retirement after Sanjay Singh became WFI president, had tweeted about junior female wrestlers calling her up and expressing their discomfort over competing in Gonda.

The sports ministry also spoke about the absence of the secretary general from WFI’s decision making. “Further, in terms of the Article X (d) of Constitution of WFI, it is Secretary General of WFI, who has been made responsible for carrying out the general business of the Federation, keeping the minutes of the meetings, maintaining all the records of the Federation, calling the meetings of the General Council and the Executive Committee. It seems Secretary General has not been involved in the said meeting of EC, which was held without any notice or quorum.”

The ministry also added that WFI continues to be in “complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code,” noting that the new body continues to function from its old office which happens to be the site of an alleged sexual harassment.

“Newly elected body appears to be in complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code. The business of the Federation is being run from the premises controlled by former office bearers. Which is also alleged premises wherein sexual harassment of the players have been alleged and present the court is hearing the matter,” it said.

“The decisions made by the newly elected executive body of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) demonstrate a blatant disregard for the established legal and procedural norms, violating both the WFI’s constitutional provisions and the National Sports Development Code. The actions smack of complete arbitrariness on part of the President, which is against the settled principles of good governance and devoid of transparency and due process. Adherence to governance norms is vital for ensuring fair play, transparency and accountability. There are crucial to built trust among athletes, stakeholders, and the public.

“Further, UWW, the international body for wrestling, is yet to issue official communication lifting the suspension of WFI. WFI has been instructed to suspend all its activities till further orders,” the ministry added.

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