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Explained: Why did the Sports Ministry suspend newly-elected WFI till further notice

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections were held on December 21 with former president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's loyalist, Sanjay Singh, and his panel winning the polls by big margins.

Explained Why did the Sports Ministry suspend newly-elected WFI till further notice snt
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First Published Dec 24, 2023, 12:13 PM IST

The Sports Ministry suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Sunday until further notice following the 'hasty announcement' made by the newly-elected body about organizing the U-15 and U-20 nationals. The suspension was enforced due to the perceived lack of adequate notice given to wrestlers for preparation. The ministry also said the new body was working under the "complete control of former (WFI) office-bearers", which was not in conformity with the National Sports Code. The WFI elections, held on December 21, resulted in a significant victory for Sanjay Singh and his panel, who are loyalists of former president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

"The new body has not followed the WFI constitution. The Federation stands suspended till further orders. WFI will not be taking care of day to day activities of wrestling. They need to follow the due process and the rules," a sports ministry official told PTI.

Also read: Wrestlers Vs Brij Bhushan: Now, video of Sakshi Malik praising ex-WFI chief emerges on social media (WATCH)

Explaining the reason for suspension, a PTI report quoting the sports ministry source added, "Sanjay Kumar Singh, newly-elected president of WFI 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," the source told the news agency.

"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," the source added.

It must be noted that Gonda has previously been the constituency of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who was accused of sexual exploitation of women wrestlers leading to a protest that was headed by noted wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.

Following Sanjay Singh's election as the new WFI chief, Sakshi Malik announced her shock retirement from the sport in a dramatic fashion by leaving her boots on the table while addressing the press on national TV. Bajrang Punia too returned his prestigious Padma Shri award to PM Narendra Modi as a mark of their continued protest over Brij Bhushan's loyalist being elected as the federation's new president.

The source further mentioned that the recently established body commenced its operations in the identical premises, Brij Bhushan's official bungalow, where the preceding office-bearers allegedly engaged in the reported sexual harassment of players.

"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 (ly) the court is hearing the matter," the source told PTI.

"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 source added.

Also read: Wrestler Bajrang Punia decides to return Padma Shri to PM Modi in protest over WFI chief election

The source indicated that the new body's actions are inconsistent with the established norms of fair and transparent governance.

"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," said the source.

The source mentioned that the decision to organize the national championships should have been executed in a procedural manner by notifying the executive committee, a step that was not taken.

The source mentioned that the decision to organize the national championships should have been executed in a procedural manner by notifying the executive committee, a step that was not taken.

"Such decisions (holding of the nationals) 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.

"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 source told PTI.

The newly-elected secretary-general of WFI, Prem Chand Lochab, penned a letter to Sanjay Singh a day following the elections, expressing that a 'few states have objected to rescheduling and relocating of age group and junior Nationals'.

"In this regard, no regular meeting of the Executive Committee of WFI as per its Constitution has been conducted after the elections for newly elected Executive Council held on 21-12-2023."

"In view of the above, it is felt that the grievances of state federations are genuine and may be considered and the U20 and U15 National Wrestling Championships 2023 scheduled at Nandini Nagar, Gonda from December 28-30 may be postponed," Lochab, the former Railway Sports Control Board secretary had written in his letter.

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