National Sports Code is the law and the federations which are not complying with it cannot be granted recognition, the Delhi High Court said on Friday, while granting a last opportunity to the Centre to show that the 41 National Sports Federations granted recognition were complying with the requirements of the code.

The High Court said in case of failure of the Centre in complying with its direction, the Secretary of sports, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports will have to be present before in the hearing.

“We grant one last opportunity to the Respondent (Centre) to comply with the order of November 6, 2020 failing which we direct the secretary (sports), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to remain present during the next hearing. The affidavit shall be filed within 10 days,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Najmi Waziri said.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on January 22.

The special bench was hearing a plea challenging the recognition granted to the 41 National Sports Federations.

During the hearing, senior advocate Sachin Dutta and central government standing counsel Anil Soni, representing the Centre, sought some more time to file a reply in the matter.

This was opposed by petitioner lawyer and sports activist Rahul Mehra who said enough time has already been granted to the authorities who have filed an affidavit earlier and washed off their hands.

The bench, which was annoyed over non-compliance of its earlier order, said, “You need to change the game you are playing. You were playing soft ball, now you have to play hard ball. There is no compliance of the sports code. What is this happening?”

The bench observed that the National Sports Development Code is the law of the today because the Supreme Court has said it has to be followed in totality.

“You (Centre) will not recognise those who are complying with the sports code. They will go out today itself. If you want to take over, do it,” the bench said.

Mehra, in his plea, has claimed “abject inaction” by the Centre with regard to alleged maladministration of NSFs and the Indian Olympic Association.

On 6 November 2020, the High Court had asked the Centre to show that the 41 NSFs granted recognition in October were complying with the requirements of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.

It had directed the ministry to show that each of the 41 NSFs, which were granted recognition, have complied with every requirement of the sports code as these bodies are funded by public money.

The bench had earlier said it was not issuing notice to the ministry in the instant petition as the issue with regard to implementation of the sports code and recognition of NSFs was being examined by the court in another petition filed by Mehra in 2010.

He had also contended that none of the NSFs which have been granted recognition have complied with the sports code.

The ministry had told the bench that the government has the discretion to decide whether or not to grant recognition.

The bench had pointed out that the Supreme Court has on several occasions held that recognition cannot be granted to a NSF which is not complying with the sports code.

The court had also asked the ministry to place before it the responses received from the NSFs to the letter issued to them by the ministry in August asking them to show whether they have complied with the sports code.

Mehra, in his instant petition, has contended that the decision granting recognition to the 41 NSFs is contrary to the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 (sports code), and “issued in a wholly arbitrary manner”.

He has also contended that the Sports Ministry has failed to take appropriate action against the NSFs which are in violation of the sports code.

The plea, filed through advocate Chaitanya Gosain, has said the ministry granted recognition to the 41 NSFs, after the Supreme Court clarified that it does not need prior approval of the high court to take any decisions.

The Supreme Court’s September 17, 2020 order had come on the ministry’s appeal against a February 7, 2020 order of the high court, in Mehra’s 2010 petition, directing that it be informed in advance by the government and IOA before taking any decision in respect of any NSF.

Subsequently, in October 2020 the ministry granted recognition to 41 NSFs, “including those that were refused recognition up to December 31, 2019 for being in violation of the sports code, and who were in violation thereof even on July 31, 2020”, the plea said.

The petition has claimed that the ministry spent nearly Rs 14,391.49 crore on sporting activities from 2009-10 to 2018-19, and nearly Rs 1,237.56 crore has been disbursed directly to NSFs, including IOA from 2009-10 to 2019-20 on the explicit, statutory understanding that they will comply with the sports code.

“Thus, (alleged) maladministration of the NSFs, including IOA, and inaction by the respondent (ministry) in this regard also concerns public monies and the reputation of India,” the petition has contended.