High Court, handball and hangover of participation

Kirti Patil
Saturday, 18 August 2018

Handball did not figure in India’s 524-Asiad contingent but the Handball Federation of India (HFI) had managed to have the men’s side feature in the draw

Jakarta: The way several nondescript Indian teams have checked in here after taking recourse from various High Courts in India, it is high time that judges reflect on their judgments and what a shame that has caused to the country’s image.

At the forefront of this ignominy is the Handball team, which actually instigated other disciplines to take to the courts after they got favourable decision from the Allahabad High Court. Handball team was first to check-in at the Games Village on August 11 and after losing all three preliminary matches before even before the official opening on Saturday, they would stay on almost till the end while most of the medal prospects are yet to arrive.

Critics are already calling to pack off the team after such a despicable show, but this is an opportunity to reflect upon how to tackle such a situation, in which the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was forced to abide by the verdict of a High Court judge.

To settle world sports disputes, the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) is the ultimate body, but given the way High Courts in India issued judgments leading up to the Asian Games it becomes imperative to set up an Indian equivalent of CAS.

The parallel is already there. Like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that oversee dope control across the world, NADA (National Anti-Doping Agency) was established for India and it has somewhat succeeded, given that the national body has been made answerable to WADA.

Men lose third straight time
Indian Men’s Handball team lost their third straight match on Friday when the High Court cleared team lost to Iraq 29-40 at Popki Stadium.

Earlier they had lost to Bahrain 25-32 and Chinese Taipei 28-38, but the way format is they will continue to stay on and play positional matches with the handball schedule stretching till August 31 wherein they will compete for 9-16th positions.

Among the two matches women’s team has played, India has lost both, first against to Kazakhstan 19-36 and the second to South Korea 18-45.

It was the Handball Federation of India that produced a letter from the Asian Federation to show its men’s team is now ranked seventh as five other countries had pulled out of the Asian Games.

Having finished a lowly 12th out of 14 teams in the last Asian Championships, it was unlikely that this team would significantly do better to change its record of just four wins in 33 matches in Asia in the past 12 years.

Nonetheless, the handball teams are here and would enjoy their stay free of any pressure till the end of the month.

This was a team that got itself entered into the Games competition draw without informing the IOA, which first resisted clearance to the team but the High Court order came in as a blow.

It is an open secret that the Handball Federation of India Secretary Anandeshwar Pandey scored political goal over Lalit Bhanot, who controls the Athletics Federation of India and has a lot of say in the IOA, at the behest of Bhanot’s rivals within IOA.

Pandey, the IOA Treasurer himself, claimed since Australia-who too compete in Asia-Uzbekistan, China, Oman, and the UAE had pulled out of the Asian Games, India were ‘effectively ranked seventh, which meant the team met the qualification criteria.’

The federation put forth this argument in front of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, who left the decision to the IOA. 

The Olympic body’s legal cell saw merit in HFI’s ranking claim, and gave them the green signal to compete.

Dragon boat in same sails
Handball is not alone in this melee.

There are variety of sports-equestrian, sailing, taekwondo, traditional boat racing, each of which saw a court case.  Athletics and Badminton were saved from it when courts dismissed petitions against their selection choices.

The Kayaking and Canoeing Association had sent a Dragon Boat team to an “Asian Championship” in July-well after the last date for entries to the Asian Games was passed-and convinced a court to tell the IOA to send the team to compete in the traditional boat competition in Jakarta.

This was an absolute dichotomy as there is no comparison between dragon boat and traditional boat sailing.

Debatable cases
- The Taekwondo Federation of India selected a team without holding any trials as mandated by the Ministry.
- Nobody knows who picked the 16 names that the TFI recommended for the Asian Games and moreover nobody knows how the IOA chopped 11 of those names when clearing the contingent.
- Same is the case with Equestrian and Yachting teams-both disciplines controlled primarily by the Army and Navy, respectively. In both cases, they overruled the choices made by the Federations.

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