Punjab and Haryana High Court extends stay on WFI elections, Supreme Court refuses to intervene

As the complex manoeuvres post the Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh sexual assault allegations continue, the repercussions of the elections to the Wrestling Federation of India not being held will befall Indian athletes who will not be able to compete under their national flag at the upcoming World Wrestling Championships 2023.

ON Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to lift the stay on elections to the executive committee of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

The stay had been extended by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday.

Earlier this month, the Haryana Wrestling Association (HWA) had approached the high court against the decision of the election returning officer (RO) for the WFI elections recognising Haryana Amateur Wrestling Association (HAWA) as an affiliated state unit of the WFI, but not HWA.

This non-recognition prevents the HWA from casting their vote in the elections to the executive committee.

On August 11, barely 24 hours before the elections, the high court imposed a stay on the petition.

While hearing a challenge by the Andhra Pradesh Amateur Wrestling Association against the Order of the  high court,  the  Bench comprising Justices Abhay Shreenivas Oka and Pankaj Mithal asked the association to move the high court instead.

The Bench has advised the association to seek impleadment as a party in the high court and press for vacation of the stay there.

About the suspension

United World Wrestling (UWW), the global governing body for wrestling, has provisionally suspended the WFI due the delays in holding elections to the WFI executive committee.

The UWW disciplinary chamber had noted that the WFI had failed to comply with its conditions for membership by not having an elected president and a board (equivalent to the WFI’s executive committee).

Currently, an ad hoc committee appointed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) exercises administrative and financial control over the WFI.

The suspension implies that Indian wrestlers will not be allowed to compete under the national flag at the upcoming World Wrestling Championships 2023, scheduled to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, from September 16 to 24.

On August 25, the IOA requested the UWW to “keep in abeyance” the suspension, insisting that it is making efforts to resume the election process.

Dispute over affiliation 

The HWA is currently headed by Deepinder Hooda, member of Parliament representing the Indian National Congress.

It is the HWA’s contention that the certificate of affiliation with the Haryana Olympics Association produced by the HAWA before the RO has been fabricated.

However, on July 25, upon examining the documents, the RO confirmed HAWA’s candidature.

On August 7, the Haryana Olympics Association filed an affidavit in the high court stating that the HAWA is not affiliated to it.

Thereafter, on August 11, the high court ruled that the HAWA is ineligible to vote.

Stay by Gauhati High Court

On June 25, the Gauhati High Court also imposed an interim stay on the elections to the WFI, upon a petition filed by the Assam Wrestling Association (AWA).

In its petition, the AWA contended that though it was entitled to be an affiliated member of the WFI, it had not been granted recognition.

On July 18,  the Andhra Pradesh Amateur Wrestling Association filed a petition challenging the Order of the Gauhati High Court. 

The Supreme Court lifted the stay imposed by the high court. 

It is not immediately clear whether the suspension would be revoked if elections to the WFI executive committee are conducted before the world championship commences on September 16.

The high court-imposed stay will continue to operate till September 25, the next date of hearing in the case.