Govt didn’t follow proper procedure while suspending WFI: Sanjay Singh

Newly-elected WFI president Sanjay Singh on Thursday said that the sports ministry did not follow “proper procedure” while suspending the wrestling national body and will challenge the government’s decision in a court.

Sanjay Singh, who was elected as the new Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, speaks regarding the suspension of the newly elected body(ANI)

The sports ministry on Sunday suspended the WFI, three days after its elections were held, for flouting its own constitution while taking certain decisions, including the announcement of U-15 and U-20 National Championships.

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Sanjay, however, said that his “autonomous” and “democratically elected” body could not have been suspended by the government without hearing the WFI’s side of the story.

“We have won the elections (of WFI) democratically. The returning officer was the retired chief justice of J&K High Court, there were observers from the IOA and UWW (United World Wrestling). There were 22 state units (three absent out of 25 state associations) taking part in the elections, 47 votes were polled out of which I got 40,” Sanjay told PTI.

“After all these, if you say we are suspended, we are not going to accept it. A democratically-elected body was not given a chance to explain its position which is against the principle of natural justice which everybody is entitled to under the Constitution of India.”

Asked what is the way forward for his body, he said, “WFI is an autonomous body and the government has not followed proper procedure. We are going to talk to the government and if it (government) does not take back the suspension, we are taking legal opinion and going to court.”

He said since the WFI is contesting the suspension, he does not accept the three-member ad-hoc committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Wednesday to run the day-to-day affairs of the national sports body.

‘Bajrang, Vinesh and Sakshi playing politics’

He said the visit by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in an akhada in Haryana to meet Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia made it clear that the trio, who led the five-month-long protest accusing former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexually harassing women grapplers, were playing politics.

“It is clear that they (Bajrang, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik) are being backed by the Congress, tool-kit gang and left parties. These three are playing on the lap of these political parties,” said Sanjay, a close aide of Brij Bhushan.

“Please tell me any fourth wrestler who is opposing the WFI other than these three. These three don’t want the junior wrestlers to progress, they want to take away the rights of junior wrestlers.

“Bajrang had gone (to the Hangzhou Asian Games) without taking part in the trials and he came back with 10-0 loss. They are not in wrestling, they are in politics. Please come forward if you are concerned about wrestling, the road is clear for you, but if you want to do politics, please do it in the open.”

Sanjay also took a dig at Bajrang for leaving his Padma Shri on the road after he decided to return it to the government.

“It may be a personal matter, but the country’s emotions are associated in Khel Ratna, it’s not for a single person, but belongs to the whole society. Padma Shri is not something which should be put on a road.”

After the election of Sanjay as WFI chief, Sakshi quit the sport while Bajrang decided to return his Padma Shri. Vinesh followed suit by returning her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award.

‘Hoping that UWW will lift ban on WFI’

Sanjay also claimed that he had written a letter to the United World Wrestling requesting lifting of the ban imposed on WFI, and he is hopeful of a favourable decision from the international parent body.

“We have written to the UWW requesting to lift the ban imposed on the WFI, as the elections were held democratically. Office holidays are going on (in Europe) so may take some days.”

He also claimed that the newly-elected office bearers did not violate any constitutional provision of the WFI while announcing dates and venue of the U-15 and U-20 National Championships in Gonda — Brij Bhushan’s Lok Sabha constituency — after the December 21 elections.

“There was full quorum when we took the decision to hold the U-15 and U-20 Nationals. There was an AGM on the day of the elections, we went to a hotel (in Delhi) and took the decision.

“If the Nationals were not held this year, the future of the young wrestlers would have been spoilt, which it has happened now. They will become overage. Everybody agreed to the venue also.”

Asked why the newly-elected WFI secretary general Prem Chand Lochab was not involved in the decision making, he said, “We told the secretary general to go there (at the hotel) along with us but he did not come. I don’t know what is his intention.

“We followed the WFI Constitution to the full. If we did something (wrong), the government should have asked for an answer from us instead of restraining us from our work. WFI is an autonomous body and we were elected in a democratic way under our (WFI) constitution.”

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