Mumbai: Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand termed the petition filed by shuttler Prajakta Sawant as "false and malicious" in his affidavit submitted to the Bombay High Court here on Wednesday. The 19-year-old Sawant, in her petition, had alleged mental harassment by Gopichand after she was refused entry to the All India National Coaching Camp in Hyderabad.
However, Badminton Association of India (BAI) and Gopichand on Wednesday refuted all allegations of favouritism towards certain badminton players during selection of national team and filed an affidavit in response to a Sawant's petition. Sawant in her petition had also alleged that Gopichand, being the chief national coach and a member of the selection committee of BAI, promoted players from his own private academy Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy.
Gopichand, in his affidavit, said, "The contentions in the petition are false, malicious, vexatious and devoid of merit and should be dismissed."
The High Court, on its last hearing, had raised questions on whether it was ethically correct for Gopichand to run a private training academy and observed that it was not in the best interest of justice. In response to this, the BAI in its affidavit today claimed that the job of the chief national coach in the selection committee is to only apprise other members about the fitness and performance of the players.
"It is mandatory requirement as per government guidelines that the chief national coach be a member of the selection committee. The selection is based on merit and performance and no partiality or bias is shown towards any player. The final selection is cleared by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports," the affidavit filed by BAI's General Secretary Vijai Sinha said.
On allegations that Gopichand nursed a grudge against Sawant after she requested for her doubles and mixed doubles partners to be changed, the affidavit says, "Partners are chosen by the players themselves. The coach has no role to play in this. The petitioner was a very promising young prospect whom I was grooming since 2009. I bear no grudge or ill will towards her."
Gopichand further claimed that he and his mother, a administrative member of PGBA, was being harassed by Sawant and her father.
"On several occasions, Sawant and her father had communicated with us making all sorts of wild and reckless allegations. Once Sawant even threatened to commit suicide. The court should look into this," the affidavit said.
The chief national coach further said that Sawant wanted to continue training at the PGBA and that she wants to practice under coach Leroy D'Souza in Mumbai.
"The Badminton Association of India runs national camps at PGBA and other such private training camps across India. The selection process is conducted by the selection committee comprising nine representatives headed by BAI's president," the affidavit states.
Sawant, a first year Bachelor of Commerce student, stated in her petition that she was selected for the training camp from October 4 to December 12. However, she contended that she had asked for her doubles and mixed doubles partners to be changed and Gopichand had hence, resented her.
"On August 22, 2012, the petitioner (Sawant) had informed by e-mail to Gopichand that the petitioner is not comfortable playing with the mixed doubles and women's doubles partners. However, Gopichand made wild allegations against the petitioner that she was not serious about badminton," Sawant's petition stated.
Gopichand, Sawant's petition mentioned, had informed her telephonically before the camp began that she will not be allowed to participate in the camp.