New Delhi: In a far-reaching decision that is likely to pave India's way back into the Olympic fold, the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday amended its constitution as per the world body directives, barring charge-framed officials from contesting elections.
The decision, taken unanimously at the IOA's Special General Meeting here on Sunday, means that president Abhey Singh Chautala and secre tary general Lalit Bhanot will step down from their posts and will not contest fresh elections on February 9 next year.
Ironically, it was Chautala who proposed the amendment and Bhanot seconded it.
Chautala is facing criminal charges over a recruitment scam unrelated to sport, while Bhanot is out on bail after being jailed last year for corruption linked to the chaotic 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
According to the amended clause, any IOA office holder charged with offences in which imprisonment of more than two years is prescribed under the Indian Penal Code/Prevention of Corruption Act, will have to resign immediately.
Otherwise, they will be provisionally suspended and will not be eligible to contest in elections and the case will be referred to the IOA’s Ethics Commission for further guidance.
The IOA, which was initially reluctant to implement the constitutional changes demanded by the International Olympic Committee, was finally forced to fall in line after Thomas Bach, president of the world body, threatened to throw out India from the Olympic movement.
The IOC had made it clear that the amendment will have to be made before December 10 or else it will recommend India’s derecognition to the IOC Executive Board which will meet on December 10 and 11.
“The house unanimously decided to amend the relevant clause in the 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,” said senior IOA member S.
Reghunathan, who chaired the GBM attended by 134 members.
“We are hoping that the IOC will revert 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. We are now hopeful that the IOC will lift the ban on the IOA,” he added.
“The IOC may say in a few days that they have accepted the amendment, so hold the election and the ban will be lifted after the polls.”
Reghunathan added that there was no need for Chautala and Bhanot to resign immediately, but they may do so after the IOC approves the amendment and before the elections.
Both Chautala and Bhanot maintained that they have “accepted the amendment under pressure from the IOC” and “in the interest of Indian athletes”.
“I am not going to contest elections... 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” said Chautala.