The Delhi High Court on Friday expressed strong displeasure that star table tennis player Manika Batra was being allegedly targeted by the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) for dragging the sports body to the court by raising her grievances.
Justice Rekha Palli said the player cannot be targeted and if she was being targeted, then it was a "serious problem".
The high court was hearing a petition by Batra seeking quashing of rules mandating compulsory attendance at the National Coaching Camp for selection in international events.
It directed the TTFI to place before it the communications with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) regarding Batra who made a complaint against the national sports body.
The court’s order came after Batra, the country’s top-ranked women’s table tennis player claimed that she was being targeted by the national federation for raising her grievances in the court and now the international federation was also treating her like an accused.
The averment was vehemently denied by the counsel for TTFI.
The high court had on September 23 stayed the TTFI's rule mandating compulsory attendance at the National Coaching Camp for selection in international events and had asked the Centre to conduct an inquiry into Batra's complaint against the sports body.
On Friday, the court was informed by the Centre’s counsel Apoorv Kurup that the enquiry report was ready and the judge asked them to file it in a sealed cover before it.
“List the matter on November 15 on which date TTFI will place on record copy of all its correspondences with International TT Federation in respect of the petitioner after September 23, 2021,” the court said.
During the hearing, senior advocate Sachin Dutta, appearing for Batra, said the player has become the federation’s target and they are targeting her after the court’s stay order.
“The international federation is treating me like an accused since the national federation must have written to them… I am unable to concentrate on practice for the championships,” her advocate argued.
Taking note of the submission, the judge said, “then what the ministry is doing? They should look into it… She can’t be targeted. I want some serious steps to be taken. This federation has to go and an ad-hoc committee should be appointed.”
It further said, “what is the purpose of the federation? You want to promote the player and the sport or do all these things only?”
On being asked by the court if TTFI has approached the international federation claiming that there are issues regarding Batra and they should take action, the national federation’s counsel Jinendra Jain denied it and said it was done based on media reports.
Batra, who was left out of the Indian contingent for the Asian Table Tennis Championships, 2021, has alleged that the national coach Soumyadeep Roy “pressurized” her to “throw away” an Olympic qualifier match in favour of one of his trainees.
The court had earlier said the rule mandating compulsory attendance at the national camp has been enforced “at a point when there was a complaint pending against the national coach” and the same “does not inspire confidence”.
The court had said the Centre may seek the stand of the national coach and also issued notice on the petition.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, had stated that the federation's rule on compulsorily attending the national camp was in the teeth of the sports code and defeated merit.
The TTFI had defended the rule and stated that such a mandate was present in other sports as well including weight lifting and judo.
In the petition, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Khel Ratna awardee have alleged that the federation was carrying out its selection processes in a non-transparent manner, targeting certain individuals such as herself.
She has asserted that the national coach, in a clear conflict of interest, was running a private table tennis academy simultaneously and on one occasion, “pressurized the petitioner to throw away a match only with a view to help one of his trainees at his private academy to qualify for the Olympics, 2020”.
“This incident happened on March 17, 2021, in respect of the match to be held on March 18, 2021, at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament, 2021 organized by ATTU. Not only did the petitioner refuse to comply with such an unethical, illegal and immoral request, but she also immediately communicated this to the Adviser, TTFI, on March 18, 2021,” the plea reads.
"After the conclusion of Olympics, the respondent no.1 (TTFI) issued Rules and Regulations dated September 4, 2021 (received by the petitioner on September 27, 2021) informing her that attending of National Coaching Camp is compulsory, failing which she would not be selected for any upcoming international event," it said.
The plea stated that Table Tennis is an individual sport, which requires specialised training with support staff and thus the rule against personal coaching is arbitrary, irrational, absurd, and has no nexus with achieving excellence in an individualised sport.