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Delhi High Court appoints committee headed by Justice Gita Mittal to look into affairs of Table Tennis Federation of India

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The Delhi High Court has appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (COA), headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, retired Justice Gita Mittal, to look into the affairs of Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI).

A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli appointed the COA to run the affairs of the federation till a deeper scrutiny of its affairs was carried out, either by the Central government or by an independent Committee.

Senior Advocate Chetan Mittal and former athlete GD Mudgal will be the members of COA.

“Upon the Committee of Administrators as nominated above assuming charge, the existing office bearers of the respondent no.1 federation shall no longer be entitled to discharge any function of the federation but will, as already directed, render assistance to the Committee of Administrators, as and when requested by the said Committee,” the Court said in its order.

The chairperson of the committee, Justice Mittal will be entitled to Rs three lakh per as monthly honorarium, while the two members will be entitled to Rs one lakh each.

“The Committee of Administrators will have the power to issue all appropriate directions, under the signatures of the Chairperson, as may be necessary for the functioning of the federation. The Committee of Administrators will be entitled to utilise the existing office of the respondent no.1, as also to avail the services of the staff already employed by respondent no.1,” the order further said.

The directions were issued after the Bench perused a report of the three-member Court-appointed committee headed by Justice (Retd) Vikramajit Sen.

The Committee was constituted after Table Tennis star Manika Batra approached the High Court, alleging that she was coerced by national coach Soumyadeep Roy for fixing a match to enable a player undergoing personal coaching at his private academy to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Batra said that despite complaints to the federation, no action was taken and she was dropped from the national team for Asian Championship.

It was also alleged that she has been continuously pressurised to take back the complaint and petition.

The Court noted that the report prepared by Justice Sen’s committee revealed a very sorry state of affairs and the manner in which the federation was functioning, was not what was expected from a National Sports Federation (NSF) which is entrusted with the duty to work for the welfare of the sports persons.

Justice Palli observed that the manner in which Batra’s complaint had been dealt with showed that the federation and its office-bearers, instead of carrying out their duty under the National Sports Code to promote and achieve excellence, were trying to hamper her growth.

“If this is the manner in which the Petitioner is being treated, I shudder to think how the more vulnerable players, who may still be trying to make their mark, are being treated by the federation. The Petitioner has urged that the federation has been forcing the players to act as per the diktat of its officials… Upon receiving the Petitioner’s complaints regarding such serious allegations of attempted match-fixing by respondent no.3 (national coach), it was incumbent upon the respondent no.1 (federation) as an NSF, to go to the root of the matter, so that a distinguished sportsperson like the Petitioner did not have to go through this uncalled for trauma. Regrettably, the respondent no.1 chose a different approach, and evidently chose to appease its officials, and put the interests and well-being of sportsperson on the backseat,” the Court said.

The Court also questioned Roy running a private academy while being the national coach which prima facie amounts to conflict of interest.

“I earnestly hope that this order will act as a waking call for the Government and all other sports federations to take corrective action in this regard. A person appointed as a national coach by such a federation cannot and ought not to be permitted to simultaneously run his personal academy. A conflict of this nature has to be avoided; our sportsperson surely deserve better.”

The Court will now consider the case on April 13.

While Senior Advocate Sachin Datta, along with advocates Akshay Amritanshu, Vidushpat Singhania, Kartikey Singh, Ashutosh Jain, Nachiket Joshi, Kushagra Jain, Ayush Gaur and Neetu Devrani appeared for Batra, Senior Advocate Anupam Lal Das and advocates Chetan Anand, Akash Srivastava appeared for TTFI.

Centre was represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, Central Government Standing Counsel (CGSC) Apoorv Kurup along with advocates Akshata Singh, Vinay Yadav, Amit Gupta, Rishav Dubey Sahaj Garg and R V Prabhat.

National coach Soumyadeep Roy was represented by Advocates Tridib Bose and Soumya Dutta.

Earlier, the High Court had suspended the Executive Committee of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) for six months, after finding that national coach indulged in match-fixing during the Olympic qualifiers.

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