Relief for Manika Batra as Delhi HC finds table tennis coach gulity of match fixing

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A file image of paddler Manika Batra.

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Relief for Manika Batra as Delhi HC finds table tennis coach gulity of match fixing

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SportsCafe Desk

02/12/2022

The Delhi High Court ordered the appointment of an administrator to take care of the Table Tennis Federation of India on Friday, citing the sporting body's "sad condition of affairs" as a reason for its decision. Justice Rekha Palli was hearing the petition filed by ace paddler Manika Batra.

The judge stated that our country is proud of its athletes and that those who do not understand how they should be handled "should be sent out." The court order will include the administrator’s name and other pertinent information about the appointment. Last year, Batra filed a lawsuit saying that national coach Soumyadeep Roy "pressed" her to "throw away" an Olympic qualification match in favour of one of his trainees, after she was left out of the Indian team for the Asian Table Tennis Championships.

The court stated that TTFI's behaviour "prima facie appears to be blameworthy" and that the national coach was chosen in a blatant conflict of interest based on the report's findings. "There has to be an inquiry. You are appointing a coach in conflict of interest. Your coach is running a private academy. What is happening? You have a national coach who is running an academy in his own name and asking her to lose a match," Justice Palli remarked, adding that the system's "rot" must be "brought out in the open."

"The report reveals a sorry state of affairs. The court is appalled to note some of the observations made by the committee with regard to the manner in which respondent no 1 (TTFI) and respondent no 3 (national coach) were functioning," the court observed. While there is material to move against TTFI under the Sports Code, the government has no issue if the court establishes an impartial committee to conduct a further investigation if necessary, according to Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma.

The court stated that at this time, it would merely appoint an administrator to oversee TTFI while delaying any further investigation. "These people should be out of this, people who don't understand how players are to be treated, to give them dignity. These people are the pride of the nation. These people (TTFI officials) have to be suspended,” During the hearing, the judge made a statement.

"In view of the circumstances, the court is left with no option but to appoint an administrator... The Executive Committee of the respondent no 1 will no longer be allowed to take any decision or interfere in the manner in which the administrator decides to discharge the duties assigned to him under the Code," the court stated in its order, adding that because there are several tournaments coming up, the current management is expected to render all services.

The court stated that it would be failing in its duties if it did not appoint an administrator in the case. "This is somebody who is a recognised player… There will be young girls and boys who look up and maybe very good but unless they tow the lines of these people in the (executive) committee in the federation, they are not allowed to come up. That is what is coming out of it and that has to stop," Justice Palli said.

"It has shaken the faith of the court in the federation. This is not how it should work," she also stated. The petitioner, TTFI, and other parties were given permission to file their responses to the three-member committee's findings, and the matter was set for further hearing on April 13. The TTFI, which was represented by prominent counsel Anupam Lal Das, objected to the court's appointment of an administrator, claiming that the matter was not adversarial. The court requested that the administrator forward a copy of the report to the International Table Tennis Federation so that it can take necessary measures in response to Batra's show-cause notice.

The court formed a three-member committee in November last year, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Vikramjit Sen, to investigate paddler Manika Batra's accusation of a match-fixing effort by the national coach. In her appeal, the paddler claims that TTFI's selection methods are opaque and that specific individuals, such as herself, are being targeted.

The petition claims that the national coach was running a private table tennis academy at the same time, resulting in a clear conflict of interest and that on one occasion, he pressured the petitioner to throw away a match in order to help one of his trainees at his private academy qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

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