WFI to back down as Delhi High Court instructs ad-hoc committee to proceed with trials for Olympic qualifier

Sanjay Singh and Satyapal Singh Deshwal
Image Source : PTI WFI President Sanjay Singh and Treasurer Satyapal Singh Deshwal in New Delhi on January 16, 2024

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) revealed that it will withdraw a circular to hold selection trials for the 2024 Paris Olympics qualifier on Thursday. After the Sanjay Singh-led WFI panel’s decision to withdraw, the Delhi High Court instructed trials shall proceed as per the circular issued by the ad-hoc committee. 

On February 9, an Ad-hoc committee, appointed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to oversee affairs after the centre suspended the Sanjay Singh-led panel, declared trials for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers (April 19-21) and World Olympic Qualifiers (May 9-12) on March 10 and 11 at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala and Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Sonipat.

“After some arguments, Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan submits that WFI shall withdraw the circular,” the Delhi High Court Justice Sachin Datta said. “The trials shall proceed as per the circular of February 9. Needless to say that the Ad-Hoc Committee will ensure that all the eligible athletes are allowed to participate in the trial.”

WFI declared trials to select teams for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament on February 27 and notably included the names of star wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and retired Sakshi Malik. 

The trio moved to court with a petition to declare the December 2023 elections illegal. On March 4, the court sought responses from the Centre, WFI and the ad-hoc committee as the plea included conducting the national selection trials for all international events under the court’s supervision and monitoring.

“The petitioner prays the court may be pleased to set aside and declare elections held by R2/WFI on December 21, 2023 as illegal and void ab-initio since the same has been held in blatant violation of the sports code,” the petition said. “The present writ petition is being filed by the petitioners inter alia assailing, challenging, and seeking directions against the illegal action of the suspended Wrestling Federation of India conducting selection trials for the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2024 and Asian Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestling Tournament notified through its circular dated February 26, 2024 against the directives of the ad-hoc Committee for Wrestling Federation of India.”