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Giving the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and its president K.P.S. Gill a reprieve, the Delhi High Court Friday quashed the central government’s order derecognizing the national sports body and termed the action as illegal.

Justice S. Muralidhar, in his 43-page judgment, said: “None of the explanations offered by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) convinces the court that there was justification in dis-affiliating the IHF without issuing a show cause notice to it.”

The IOA de-recognised the IHF and the move was endorsed by the union sports ministry.

“Even if the action of placing IHF under suspension at that point in time can be stated to be a knee-jerk reaction, clearly such suspension was only intended as an interim measure. In any event, the above events did not obviate the need to issue a show cause notice to the IHF even after placing it under suspension. That was, however, never done. Therefore, there can be no manner of doubt that the suspension of the IHF by the IOA in April 2008 was in the circumstances illegal,” the court said.

Stressing on the role of sports bodies in India, the court said: “Sports bodies have to have a degree of autonomy with the government playing the role of an effective regulator. They must be allowed to function in a democratic manner with persons really interested in developing the game participating in its affairs.”

“The knee-jerk reaction to losses at international events, which are inevitable in competitive events, and looking for persons to blame, cannot be conducive to a healthy development of any national sport. For a proper enquiry into the problems besetting Indian hockey, the cloud of suspension over the IHF should be lifted. The past should be put behind and a new beginning made,” the court said.

IOA had dissolved the IHF in April 2008 and Hockey India was formed as the interim governing body for the national game.

The court rejected the submissions by the government that the Commonwealth Games 2010 were only a few months away and if at this stage the IHF was revived, it would result in a chaotic situation since Hockey India had already been formed as a unified body for men and women’s hockey in India.

“Whenever this court considered passing an interim order, it was informed by the respondents (IOA and government) that some major international event is round the corner and therefore, this court should refrain from passing orders till such time the event was not concluded. This was the reason why this petition was not taken up for final hearing till such time the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2010 was not concluded,” the court said while slapping a cost of Rs.10,000 each on IOA and the government.

“It would be unfair to the petitioner (IHF), which has succeeded in showing that both the orders of disaffiliation and consequent de-recognition are wholly illegal, to be denied relief for over two years on the ground that such order might jeopardize India’s participation in a sporting event. Unfortunately, for over two years now the petitioner IHF has continued to remain under an illegal suspension, followed by an illegal disaffiliation and an illegal de-recognition. This situation calls for a restitutive correction,” the court observed while asking all the parties to see how the interests of hockey in India can be served

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