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Court reserves order on plea against Hockey India ‘threats’

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a plea alleging that Hockey India (HI) was threatening players to prevent them from taking part in the World Series Hockey (WSH) tournament.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw reserved its order after conclusion of arguments by counsel appearing for the parties.

The tournament, a joint initiative of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports, is to be held in the country between Dec 17 and Jan 22, 2012. The WSH is not sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), which recognises the HI as the official custodian of the national sport in the country.

Former player and coach Joachim Carvalho approached the court alleging that the HI, which is fighting legal battles with the IHF, was threatening players that if they took part in the WSH, they would not be selected for national duty.

Carvalho’s counsel Jayant Bhushan said: “For the first time, our hockey players are going to get some money by playing in the WSH tournament and the HI is trying to deny them their right to play.”

“They (HI) want to ruin the financial prospects of not just 11 or 24 players but the top 48 players of the country”, he said.

Bhushan alleged that HI’s preparatory camp for a total of 71 days was organised with the sole purpose of preventing the players from participating in the WSH. He further said that it was illegal by HI to threaten disqualification of those players participating in the tournament.

“The whole idea is to deliberately prevent them (players) from playing in the WSH”, he added.

He also added that HI intends to start its own league in 2013 and they want the players to wait till then. “But players want to play in both events”, he said.

Opposing Bhushan’s arguments, Additional Solicitor General A.S. Chandhiok, appearing for the central government, said: “The government has no role in it and it has simply let out its stadia at commercial rates for organising the WSH.”

Counsel for the HI said that the matter was pending in the Supreme Court and the HI had been allowed by the Supreme Court to select the national teams for men and women.

The WSH’s organisers claimed that the tournament was aimed at reinvigorating hockey here and to make it a sport of choice for youngsters. On the lines of IPL, the WSH would be played among eight franchisee-based teams.

Referring to the Supreme Court order in the matter related to the row/dispute between HI and IHF, Bhushan said that the apex court recognized HI only to the extent of choosing players for national team, but its not entitled to disqualify players solely on the ground of participating in WSH.

The bench had earlier sought responses from the central government and the HI on the petition.

Appearing for the central government Wednesday, advocate Manisha Dhir said that they are not part of the ongoing controversy between HI and IHF. The applications of both are pending with the ministry for recognition, subject to the outcome of the apex court’s decision in the matter, she said.

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