New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today cleared the way for the players` participation in the World Series Hockey (WSH), a joint initiative of Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sport, if the tournament schedule does not clash with international commitments of the national team.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw disposed of a petition of Joachim Carvalho, a former player and coach, that Hockey India (HI), which is managing the game, be restrained from threatening players that they would not be considered for national duty if they participate in WSH, an IPL-like initiative for Hockey of rival group IHF.
"We are of the opinion that the matter can be placed before the the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in the same prospective as narrated by us in the judgement.
Clarification can be sought from the FIH. At this time, the FIH can be impressed upon to sanction the event (WSH) if it is still required, more so, when the new dates to be fixed by the organisers are not in any way clashing with the schedule fixed by FIH for international events.
"Domestic events can be arranged in such a manner that it does not come in conflict with preparatory camps or the period when the international events are going to be held," the bench said, adding IHF had already agreed to re-schedule WSH.
The court said money flow in the game was "necessary" to "redeem" past glory of hockey and ways and means can be found to facilitate participation of players in WSH.
It ruled that regulations of HI restraining players` participation in WSH would only apply "in respect of the commitments made after March 31, 2011.
The court said the problem can be resolved if the schedule for WSH matches does not coincide with the training camps for international fixtures.
"The problem can be resolved once it is ensured that the domestic event, to be organised by IHF with Nimubus Sports as sponsers, do not come in conflict with the training schedule prescribed for the international events ...," the bench said.
The court had on December 8 last year reserved its judgement of the plea of Carvalho who had alleged that the players were denied an opportunity by HI to earn some money. Carvalho had said that for the first time, players were going to get some money by playing in WSH tournament.
WSH is to be held between December 17, 2011, and January 22, 2012, every year with an aim to "reinvigorate hockey here and to make it a "sport of choice" for youngsters. On the lines of IPL, WSH would be played among eight franchisee-based teams.
Later, IHF and Nimbus Sports told the court that they had reschduled WSH and now fixed it in March, 2012.
The fight to control Indian Hockey dates back to 2008 when IHF, led by K P S Gill, was de-recognised and disaffiliated by the Centre and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) after its secretary K Jothikumaran was caught on camera in a sting operation accepting bribe to select a player.
HI came into being and relaced IHF. However, the Delhi High Court termed de-recognition of IHF as "illegal" and ordered its revival, a decision later challenged by HI in SC.
The Supreme Court, which asked the Centre to resolve the dispute between IHF and HI, however had allowed the latter to select national teams for some upcoming tournaments.
In another twist to the tale, the government later also derecognised HI following the controversial election of Vidya Stokes as its President.