During the IOA’s Special General Body Meeting here, some members raised objections to at least half a dozen amendments contained in the draft constitution, and said “the democratic rights of the General Body have been completely taken away”.
Faced with the threat of suspension from the IOC if elections are not held by December, coupled with the directives of the Supreme Court, the IOA had no other alternative but to bring the changes to its constitution.
The draft constitution was prepared by the SC-appointed retired apex court judge L Nageswara Rao and the IOC has already given its approval to it. The SC has approved holding of IOA elections on December 10. The apex court will hear the matter on Friday.
“We have done the amendments of the constitution as per Supreme Court (order) with minor changes. We will give advice to the SC and submit it today for the hearing tomorrow. We will submit the same to the government also,” IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, who is the main point of contact with the IOC, said.
Initially, there was confusion whether the IOA General Assembly had adopted the draft constitution or not, as some members said the amendments were rejected. But Mehta made it clear that the IOA has no “right” to go against a mandatory directive of the apex court of the country.
“There were some objections being raised. That does not mean the constitution was not adopted. It was mandatory (to adopt the constitution) as per Supreme Court order. The draft constitution has also been approved by the IOC. IOA has no right to change the constitution.
“Now, it is up to the Supreme Court whether to accept those objections or not. I am submitting to the SC that we have adopted the draft constitution along with minor changes. That is all we can do.
“We discussed the issues in the open and we could see a majority of members favouring the amendment of the constitution. We have checked, and the majority of members from Olympic sports were favouring the amendments, that is important.”
There were objections raised concerning the doing away with of the voting right of state Olympic associations, the clubbing of all executive council members as office bearers, equal representation of male and female members of NSFs, mode of appointment of the proposed unelected post of CEO and provision of eight sportspersons of outstanding merit (SOM) in the executive council with full voting rights.
“The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its order terms this exercise (of adoption of draft constitution) to be formal. The democratic rights of the General Body has been completely taken away.
“We are not able to deliberate upon the amendments with our free conscience. IOA members have utmost respect towards the apex court of our country,” a four-page letter circulated by some members read.
One former official claimed that the circular has been signed by around 70 members. The General Assembly on Thursday had an attendance of 138 members.
“In accordance with directions contained in the order dated 10.10.2022 of the Hon’ble Supreme Court … and other concerned matters, we hereby ratify the constitution. However, if a free and democratic right to vote could be exercised, then there were several problems/objections with the IOA constitution as adopted,” it further read.
The draft constitution provides for equal representation of male and female members in the IOA General Assembly which will be made up of two representatives each — one male and one female — of the national federations whose sports are included in programme of Olympic/Asian/Commonwealth Games, IOC members in India, two representatives of the Athletes’ Commission — one male and one female — and eight representatives — four male and four female — who are sportspersons of outstanding merit (SOM). Each member will have one vote.
Mehta said he had advised the state associations to form a body of themselves and two members from it can be included in the executive council with voting rights in place of two SOMs.
“All these objections (in the four page letter) will be submitted to the SC tomorrow as it is. As per the court order, the IOA members can submit their objections to the SC till December 7 and it is up to the court to take a decision on that,” he said.
Asked about the grievance of the state Olympic associations as they will lose their right to vote under the new constitution, Mehta said, “We have to understand that when we are talking about the Olympic Games, we need majority of members (national federations) in sports included in Olympics (or Asian Games and CWG).
“State Olympic associations are not part of the Olympic Games or Olympic movement.”
He also said that there’s no need to call another SGM to adopt any further changes to the constitution.
“I will be issuing the notice for the commencement of the IOA election process tomorrow,” he said.
“The Delhi High Court division bench has ruled that those members belonging to the sports in Olympics, Asian Games or CWG can vote and so any other NSF or state Olympic associations cannot vote.”
Mehta is not happy with the provision of the secretary general having to undergo a ‘cooling off’ period after serving two terms before contesting for an office bearer’s post.
“Under this provision, a 58-year-old will have to retire. He or she might have done a good job but cannot become secretary general after serving two terms whereas a president is allowed three continuous terms. This is injustice.
“What will the person do during the four years of cooling off period? Where will he go? So, we will tell the Supreme Court that in the case of the secretary general, he or she need not serve a cooling off period after serving two terms. Treasurer and secretary should be allowed to serve three continuous terms just like the president.”
He also slammed the proposed criteria of a CEO candidate, who will replace the earlier elected post of secretary general.
“What is the need of the CEO candidate to having experience of working at a 25 crore turnover company. It should be open to all, including past officials.”