Five wrestlers were given permission by the Delhi High Court on Thursday to participate in the trials being held by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) from Friday for the upcoming Asian Games 2023 .
Wrestlers – Anuj Kumar, Chander Mohan, Vijay, Ankit, and Sachin Mora, who have grabbed medals and positions at the national and international stages – moved a petition challenging their exclusion from the WFI’s trials for the Asian Games, which will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, from April 9 to 14.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh said that they shall be allowed to compete and be judged on their own merit.
“Considering this position and the fact that being talented wrestlers, the petitioners should not be excluded… in view of the fact that there ought to be greater talent which would compete in the trials, this court is of the opinion that the petitioners ought to be permitted to participate in the trials to be held tomorrow (Friday) and day after in their respective categories.”
The wrestlers argued the WFI’s standards were utterly arbitrary, unfair, and led to the admission of wrestlers who were either inferior to them or, at most, on par with them, for trials.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports appointed the oversight committee at the end of January 2023 as a result of a number of claims made against WFI office holders, Central government standing counsel Manish Mohan, arguing on behalf of the ministry and WFI, said.
The petitioners do not fulfil the criteria, he added, which was set by the oversight committee, which includes well-known wrestlers like Yogeshwar Dutt and Babita Phogat.
The argument was that this competition, which will take place in April, is important in the run-up to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
The trials for the 2023 Asian Championship are therefore crucial for the professional development of top-level athletes and for ensuring that they are promoted to represent their nation with honour, it stated.
The high court said the purpose of any trial will be to ensure the best sportsperson participates and the exclusion of national games and other recognised events is, at this stage, not clear to the court.
It noted there are only two days on which the trials are to be held- March 10 and 11.
The high court said a perusal of the criteria adopted by the authorities would show that except for one championship, all the other championships mentioned as the criteria for qualifying for the trials are international championships.
Even the national games held by Indian Olympic Association (IOA) have been excluded from the said criteria, it noted.
The petitioners were informed on March 3 that they did not meet the requirements for the trials, which were scheduled to begin on March 10, the court observed.
They addressed emails to the oversight committee on March 3, but when they were informed of the actual criteria on March 6, their representation was denied.
After perusing the record, the court found that the criteria excludes a large number of winners and medallists in national and international games and the reason for exclusion is not evident at this stage in as much as the petitioners are undisputedly medal winners in several national and international games.
The high court set the case for further hearing on April 5 and asked the ministry and WFI to submit a brief affidavit within two weeks outlining the reason for the criteria.