The Supreme Court of India has allowed the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to conduct its elections, which have been delayed and disputed for months. The apex court has set aside the stay order issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had halted the elections following a plea by two WFI-affiliated units.
WFI elections: A long overdue process
The WFI elections were originally scheduled to be held on July 4, 2023, but were postponed several times due to various reasons. The WFI is the national governing body for wrestling in India, and its term of office expired earlier this year. The WFI president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a BJP MP from Kaiserganj, has been accused of sexual assault by a female wrestler. Several top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, have staged protests in New Delhi, demanding his resignation and a fair and transparent election process.
WFI elections: A legal battle
The WFI elections have also been mired in legal disputes, as some state associations have challenged the validity of the electoral college and the nomination process. The Assam Wrestling Association filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court, seeking a stay on the elections. The court granted the stay, but later vacated it after the WFI assured that it would follow the guidelines of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS). The WFI then rescheduled the elections for August 12, 2023.
However, a day before the elections, the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued another stay order, based on a plea by the Chandigarh Wrestling Association and the Haryana State Wrestling Association. The plea alleged that the WFI had violated the principles of natural justice and fair play by disaffiliating some state units without giving them a proper hearing. The plea also claimed that the WFI had not followed the IOA and MYAS guidelines, and had allowed some ineligible candidates to contest the elections.
WFI elections: A global concern
The delay in the WFI elections has also raised concerns at the international level, as the United World Wrestling (UWW), the global governing body for wrestling, has threatened to suspend the WFI for not holding the elections as per the timeline. The UWW has stated that the WFI must comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, 2021, and the Olympic Charter, and ensure that its elections are free and fair. The UWW has also warned that the suspension of the WFI could affect the participation of Indian wrestlers in international events, including the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.
WFI elections: A ray of hope
The Supreme Court’s order on Tuesday has given a ray of hope to the WFI and the wrestling fraternity, as it has cleared the way for the elections to be held as soon as possible. The court has directed the WFI to conduct the elections in accordance with the IOA and MYAS guidelines, and to submit a report to the court within four weeks. The court has also asked the WFI to ensure that the elections are fair and transparent, and that the grievances of the state units are addressed.
The WFI elections are expected to bring a new leadership and a new vision for the sport, which has been one of the most successful disciplines for India in the recent past. The elections are also likely to end the uncertainty and the unrest among the wrestlers, who have been demanding a change in the WFI administration. The elections are also crucial for the preparation and the performance of the Indian wrestlers in the upcoming international events, where they hope to win more medals and glory for the country.