IOA amends constitution under pressure from IOC

New Delhi: Left with no other option after being served an ultimatum by the International Olympic Committee, the IOA on sunday amended its constitution to bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections, in a development which is expected to pave the way for India`s return to the Olympic fold.

The decision to amend the IOA constitution in line with IOC diktat was taken at its Special General Body Meeting here after the the world body served the ultimatum last month that it would de-recognise India if the charge-framed persons are not barred from contesting polls.

The IOC has made it clear that the amendment will have to be made before December 10 or else it will recommend India`s de-recognition to the IOC Executive Board which will meet on December 10 and 11.

S Reghunathan, who chaired the GBM attended by 134 members, said both Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot, the president and secretary general of the suspended IOA and who were charge-framed by the court, would be ineligible to contest IOA elections to be held on February 9 once the IOC approves the amendment.

"The House unanimously decided to amend the relevant clause in IOA constitution which would bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections. Both Chautala and Bhanot told the House that they will not contest the upcoming elections. In fact, Chautala proposed the amendment while Bhanot seconded it," he told a press conference.

"We also decided to hold elections on February 9."

In its October 27 Special GBM, the IOA had sought to dilute IOC`s directive on the charge-framed clause by proposing to refer such cases to its internal Ethics Commission, which was later rejected by the world body.

"Where charges have been framed by any court in India, in respect of an offence which is of serious nature under Indian Penal Code/Prevention of Corruption Act in which punishment of imprisonment of more than 2 years is prescribed then the member/office bearer/member of executive council of IOA will resign immediately and if not they will be provisionally suspended and will not be eligible to contest in elections and the case will be referred to IOA Ethics Commission for further guidance," the amended clause said.

The amendment if accepted by the IOC could lead to India`s return to the Olympic fold after being suspended by the world body on December 4 last. It will also bring an end to the one-year-old impasse between the IOC and IOA.

"We are hoping that the IOC will revert back to us in seven to 10 days. The ball is now in the IOC`s court. We have done what we have been told to do. We are now hopeful that the IOC will lift the ban on the IOA," he said.

Reghunathan said there was no need for Chautala and Bhanot to resign immediately but they may do so after the IOC gives approval to the amendment and before the elections.

"There is no need for them to resign immediately. They may do so after IOC approves the amendment. They can resign before elections. We will do whatever the IOC says. We will wait for IOC direction."

He said the IOC may even decide to lift the ban on IOA in a few days if they accept the amendment.

"The IOC may say in a few days that they (the IOC) have accepted the amendment, so hold the election and the ban will be lifted after the polls," he said.

Chautala himself declared that he would not contest the upcoming IOA elections but said the amendment was done under the pressure from the IOC.

"I am not going to contest elections but there are two things. One, the amendment was done under the pressure of the IOC. And two, we are making the amendment in the interest of the Indian athletes, so that they can take part under the Indian flag," he said.

"But we should be allowed to represent our case, that under the Indian law framing charges against a person does not mean that he is guilty. So an IOA delegation will visit the IOC headquarters after the amendment is accepted (by the IOC) to explain the legal position in India."

Bhanot also said he will not contest elections.

"I am not contesting elections as after the amendment is made, I am not eligible."

Asked if he felt he was victimised in the whole controversy, he said, "No. The House is with me. We decided to amend the constitution in the interest of Indian athletes. I don't want to be a hindrance to the interest of the athletes."

The Indian Olympic Association was left with no choice after the IOC served an ultimatum on November 15 to amend the constitution to bar charge-framed persons from contesting polls by December 10.

The ultimatum came after the IOA sought to repeatedly dilute IOC's stern directive on some pretext or the other, the latest being on October 27 when its GBM proposed referring the case of charge-framed persons to its internal Ethics Commission, before the world body served the ultimatum.

Suspended on December 5 last for government interference in its functioning and for allowing corruption-tainted persons to contest elections, the IOA top brass had remained adamant taking the stand that Indian law allow charge-sheeted persons from even contesting Parliamentary polls.

The de-recognition threat and reports of a planned ad-hoc committee led to the IOA top brass finally understanding the futility of taking on the IOC.

De-recognition would mean that India would cease to be a part of the Olympic Movement and the country's sportspersons will not be allowed to take part in any international event.

The IOC President Thomas Bach, in a media report, had also threatened to go ahead with India's de-recognition if the IOA does not amend its constitution to bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections.