PtG Article 04.05.2010

Indian officials angry at having length of power limited by Government

Putting an end to the practice of politicians sitting at the helm of national sports bodies indefinitely, a new law, introduced by India’s Sports Minister M. S. Gill, limits their tenures in line with international norms. This move will hurt the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Suresh Kalmadi, and many others.

Gill modified a 1975 regulation under which national sports federation (NSFs) Presidents cannot occupy office for more than 12 years, with or without break, while a secretary or a treasurer can serve two terms of four years each but will have to take a four-year break before seeking re-election. Also, anyone over the age of 70 will not be eligible to continue in their posts.This new law means that Kalmadi, who was elected in 1996, will have to quit as President of the IOA by the end of his fourth term in 2012 after the London Olympics. The Sports Ministry claimed it took the decision after studying regulations of the IOC and other world governing bodies. Federations which refuse to accept the order will lose Government recognition and not be eligible for financial support, the Sports Ministry said. They will also lose the power to select national teams for events like the Olympics. V.K Malhorta, vice-president of the IOA, claimed that they would take legal action against the decision. Malhorta said: "I have spoken to Kalmadi and have asked to call an IOA Executive Committee or office bearers' meeting very soon. I have suggested him if Delhi High Court decides in favour of Government the IOA should go to Supreme Court."Malhorta warned that India risked suspension from the IOC if the law was imposed. "The IOC and the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) don't allow Government interference and may take action if they come to know this”. Gill defended his decision and claimed that he was merely trying to bring Indian sport into line with the Olympic Movement. He said: "I passed this order in confidence that it will serve the best interest of the sportspersons of the country and it will give an impetus to transparent and professional management of Indian sports in the new century.Gill was supported by Milkha Singh, India's greatest-ever athlete, known as the "Flying Sikh" who won the 400 metres at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and briefly held the world record.He said: "I think this is a step in the right direction. I think it will lead to a situation where better people would join administration and the standard of sports would rise."