New Delhi: Sports Minister Jitendra Singh on Wednesday asked the IOC to "assist" in bringing India back into the Olympic fold and said that the country is at "crossroads" as far as sports administration was concerned. "We are at the crossroads of change in the way India Sports is administered in India. We come to you with a common understanding. We hope the IOC will also assist us in bringing about the changes and when we do, allow Indian sportspersons to compete under the Indian Flag," Jitendra said during his speech at the International Olympic Committee Headquarters in Lausanne.
Jitendra re-iterated that the Government of India respects the autonomy of the Indian Olympic Association and National Sports Federations. "The Government of India respects the autonomy of the IOA and the NSF. There has been no case where the Government has intervened in the day to day functioning of the NSF. Even when there is a dispute within the NSF, the Govt. of India prefers to respect the views of the International Federation rather than impose its will," he told the IOC members.
The minister also sought to explain the Sports Code. "It is a set of guidelines that the Government has come out with and expects the IOA and the NSF to voluntarily adopt. A federation does not have to follow the Sports Code by the letter. In many cases, where the situation demands, the Government has relaxed the provisions of the Code."
Citing examples, Jitendra said the "Soccer, Tennis, Yachting, Golf federations had come to us, discussed the issues and solutions have been found". Jitendra emphasised on the role of judiciary in the functioning of the NSFs. "Over the years the judiciary has repeatedly expressed its dismay at the state of affairs in many National Sports Federations. Because of the absence of any clear guiding principles of governance among the NSF, the judiciary has repeatedly taken recourse to the Sports Code and has insisted on the NSF adhering to its principles. Such directions are binding on the concerned NSF," he explained.
"That is what happened in the case of the IOA. It was not the Government but the Judiciary who asked for adherence to the Sports Code. It was the binding order of the court that became applicable. There was nothing wrong with the order of the Court," Jitendra said. "All it directed was that the elections should be held as per the constitution of the IOA, with the provisions of the Sports Code also being made applicable. There was no conflict in the provisions."
He further told the IOC members that the government only wanted the NSFs to have transparency and accountability. "Between 40% and 90% of the expenditures of NSF and the IOA is met from Government Funds. All that the Government seeks in return is the enforcement of common transparent guidelines which emphasises transparency, good governance and accountability." Jitendra once again also said that as many as 53 NSFs out of 54 have agreed to fall in line with the Sports Code.
"As a matter of fact, there is almost complete acceptance of the Sports Code among the NSF in India. The Government of India deals with 54 NSF. 53 of them have voluntarily accepted the Sports Code. The only exception is the Archery Federation of India, led by Mr. Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who has refused to join these discussions.
"34 of the NSF have amended their constitutions the rest, except archery, have promised to do so by June 30, 2013. There is now no dispute regarding the Sports Code," he stressed. Stating that even the IOA is no longer averse to the age and tenure restrictions of the Sports Code, Jitendra said, "We have all come here today with a common agreement. The IOA constituents have agreed to amend the constitution of the IOA to incorporate some age and tenure restrictions. These restrictions are exactly those that are in the IOC constitution.
"Once the amendments are carried through, and I have no doubt that they will be; the directives of the High Court will no longer be needed, as they will have voluntarily been accepted by the members of the IOA." Complaining that the IOA had failed to incorporate the set of amendments issued by the IOC in 2010, the minister said, "The IOC had approved a set of amendments to the IOC constitution which were unfortunately not incorporated in the IOA constitution. Today's issues would have been a thing of the past, had that been done."
He also clarified the contents of the proposed Sports Bill. "There has been a fair amount of un-informed criticism of the attempt of the Government to bring about legislation to govern the working of the NSF. I believe much of the criticism would have vanished, if the aggrieved persons had read the brief to the Drafting Committee.
"We would like three major issues to be addressed in the Sports Bill. The first is a common code of ethics, the second is an independent body to conduct elections and the third is a dispute resolution mechanism. None of these are possible without legislation. We need that piece of legislation to bring about the basic theme that I had set out initially - Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability.
"But let me assure you that there will be widespread consultations before any attempt is made to bring a bill before the Indian Parliament. We will consult individual Sports Federations, the IOA and the general public. Every view will be considered and wherever possible, discussed with the concerned body or individual," he explained. Jitendra reminded that the Government has also invited the IOC to be a part of the Drafting Committee.
"I have already asked the IOC to be a part of the Drafting Committee and I reiterate that invitation today. We will also send the draft bill to the IOC and invite their comments before finalising the bill that will go before Parliament," he said.