The Delhi High Court sought response from the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), among other authorities, in an appeal by an Arjuna awardee Paralympic shooter Naresh Kumar Sharma, challenging the order of the Single Judge of the Delhi High Court refusing to interfere with the decision of the Committee in not shortlisting Sharma’s name for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics event.
The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice and slated the matter for further hearing on August 6, 2021.
Advocate Varun Singh, representing Sharma, submitted that the Single Judge, in the order, admitted of biasedness and favoritism in the selection process adopted by the PCI and ordered an investigation; yet held against Sharma’s selection stating that a bio-bubble has already been put in place.
He informed the Court that the deadline for submission of entry forms for participation in the event is August 2, 2021; and in this regard, urged the Bench to take up the matter on August 2, 2021, or else, the appeal would become infructuous. The Bench, however, refused his request and orally remarked: “It happens when you are coming late.”
Filed through Advocates Satyam Singh and Amit Kumar Sharma, the appeal by Sharma seeks setting aside of the order dated July 27, 2021, passed by Justice Rekha Palli, in a plea by Sharma against his non-selection for the Tokyo Paralympics event by the PCI, the body responsible for selecting athletes to represent India at the Paralympic Games and other international Paralympic athletic meets and for managing the Indian Paralympic teams at the events.
Sharma, a five-time Paralympic shooter, is aggrieved by his non-selection in the R7 event despite fulfilling all the eligibility criteria as laid down by the Sports Technical Committee (STC) of PCI, as also by the World Shooting Para Sports (WSPS); and states that the Committee wrongly selected one Deepak to participate in Tokyo Paralympic in R7 event, in his place.
It is alleged that the Single Judge failed to take into consideration the fact that the non-selection of the appellant was manifestly arbitrary inasmuch as the Selection Committee of PCI vehemently ignored the fact that the applicant fulfilled all the eligibility criteria as laid down by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and PCI.
It is further alleged that the Single Judge failed to appreciate her own observation that the PCI acted in violation of its own criteria for selection of the Paralympic Shooting.
Justice Palli, in the order, observed that PCI conducted itself in a manner which is quite unbecoming of a public sporting body entrusted with the important task of selecting athletes to represent the nation at Paralympic Games and other international Paralympic athletic meets, as also for managing Indian Paralympic teams at such events. “In view of the spirit with which it was formed, it is incumbent for the PCI to maintain a fair, transparent, and inclusionary approach when carrying out its activities. Yet, the PCI, despite knowing that the petitioner already fulfilled the existing criteria, proceeded to contact the IPC in respect of selection of the respondent no.4 (Deepak) for the R-7 event.”
The Bench further observed: “By failing to inform the petitioner and other Para Shooters that scores from the Novi Sad Grand Prix 2021 would be accepted for the purpose of selections for the Tokyo Paralympics, the PCI appears to have acted in a discriminatory manner…I do not find any reason to grant the petitioner’s prayer to have his name included in the list of athletes for the R-7 event at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics at this belated stage when the Shooting team has already been placed in a bubble for the purpose of the Paralympics.”
However, the Bench directed the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to examine the aspect of any foul play in the selection of Deepak for the event and if the same is found, to take appropriate action against the PCI in accordance with the law.
“The Ld. Single Judge failed to take into account the fact that this direction would not serve any meaningful purpose so far as the selection of the appellant in Tokyo Paralympics in the R7 event is concerned,” the appeal added.