Wrestling Stars Take the Battle to Court, Accuse WFI of Sports Code Violations

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and others file urgent petition in Delhi High Court, demanding nullification of WFI elections

In a dramatic turn of events, wrestling champions, including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat, have moved swiftly to the Delhi High Court, alleging serious sports code violations in the recently concluded Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections. The petition, filed urgently, calls for the nullification of the poll results and the derecognition of the federation.

The wrestlers’ legal action follows closely on the heels of a circular issued by the WFI, which invited the protesting athletes to participate in national trials for Olympic qualifiers. The petition argues that the trials, scheduled by the WFI on March 10-11, would lack fairness without the court’s intervention, potentially jeopardizing the wrestlers’ careers.

The urgent plea also raises questions about the WFI’s use of facilities owned by the Sports Authority of India, despite the sports ministry suspending the elected body of the WFI for ‘blatant disregard for established legal and procedural norms’ just three days after the polls on December 21.

Sanjay Singh, a close associate of former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, elected as the new president, faces allegations of sexual harassment filed by six women wrestlers. The sports ministry suspended the elected body and directed the Indian Olympic Association to establish an ad-hoc committee to manage day-to-day affairs.

The petition further contends that the sports ministry has turned a blind eye to the WFI’s non-compliance with the sports code. It highlights the extended tenures of some executive committee members, violating the cooling-off period, and the absence of a proper Athletes’ Commission in both the WFI and state units.

The urgent petition urges the high court to empower the ad-hoc committee to continue managing WFI affairs or appoint an administrator. Additionally, it calls for restrictions on WFI office-bearers’ communication with the United World Wrestling (UWW) without clearance from the ad-hoc committee.

The wrestlers’ legal move emphasizes the WFI’s contentious decision to conduct a separate national championship despite the ad-hoc committee announcing event dates. As the wrestling saga unfolds in the courtroom, the fate of the WFI hangs in the balance, with implications for the athletes and the future of wrestling in India.

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