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The Court opined that the purpose of the trials was to ensure that the best athletes compete in the championship and that the exclusion of the National Games appeared to have harmed the petitioners.
Observing that irreparable prejudice would be caused to the petitioner wrestlers if they are not permitted to participate in the trials, as they would in effect be excluded from competing in the Asian Championship 2023 as also the Paris Olympics 2024, the Delhi High Court ordered that the petitioners shall be permitted to compete in the trials and shall be judged on their own merits.
A bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh was hearing a plea by five professional wrestlers namely, Anuj Kumar, Chander Mohan, Vijay, Ankit, and Sachin Mor aggrieved by the rejection of their candidature for the trials of the Asian Championship 2023.
The petitioner wrestlers stated that only those who will participate in the Asian Championship 2023 will be able to represent India in the 2023 Senior World Championship which is also the Olympic qualifiers. It was further contended that their exclusion was arbitrary since the highest games held in India were the National Games, whose medal winners were excluded.
The Oversight Committee, which was appointed by the Union of India to run the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and includes celebrated athletes such as M.C Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt, and Babita Phogat, established the criteria for selecting wrestlers as medalists only in published international championships. The Indian Olympic Association's National Games, on the other hand, were exempt from the aforementioned criteria.
The single-judge bench noted that the published criteria excluded a large number of medal winners in national and international games and that the 'reason for exclusion was not evident at the present stage'.
The court opined that the petitioners were undisputedly medal winners in several national and international games as described in the petition and the purpose of the trials was to ensure that the best sports persons participate in the championship.
“The exclusion of National Games organized by the Indian Olympic Association on the one hand and recognizing the 2022 Senior Nationals Championship appears to have adversely affected the Petitioners”, the court added.
“Considering this position, and the fact that talented wrestlers like the Petitioners ought not to be excluded as there ought to be greater talent to compete in the trials, this Court is of the opinion that the Petitioners ought to be permitted to participate in the trials tomorrow i.e., 10th March 2023 and on 11th March 2023 in their respective categories”, Justice Singh stated.
The court clarified, “However, this permission to participate in the trials shall not be construed as an opinion of the Court of their inter se merit with other wrestlers, on which point the decision would be taken by the Selection Committee.”
Accordingly, court directed the respondents to file a short affidavit explaining the basis of criteria adopted by the Oversight Committee including the reason behind the exclusion of National Games from the qualification criteria, and posted the matter for further hearing on April 5, 2023.
Case Title: Anuj Kumar & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.
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