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Posted at: Aug 29, 2015, 1:55 AM; last updated: Aug 29, 2015, 1:38 AM (IST)

Give Dronacharya Award to Vinod, court tells Ministry

Give Dronacharya Award to Vinod, court tells Ministry
Vinod Kumar, former wrestling chief coach

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 28

In a major embarrassment to the Government, the Delhi High Court on Friday directed the Sports Ministry to confer the prestigious Dronacharya Award on former chief wrestling coach Vinod Kumar, just a day before the National Sports Awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Feeling “insulted” after his candidature was rejected by the selection panel, Kumar had moved the court last week challenging the committee’s decision to recommend assistant wrestling coach Anoop Singh Dahiya for the honour.

Kumar’s legal counsel Rahul Mehra argued before Justice VP Vaish that the complainant was the chief national coach of the men’s freestyle team from November 2010 to April 2015 and had more points than Dahiya as per the government’s performance-based points system to select the awardees.

Mehra also contended that the Indian grapplers won a majority of the medals during the award period (2011-14) under Kumar’s guidance, including at the London Olympics, Incheon Asian Games and Glasgow Commonwealth Games and at various other international tournaments.

Justice Vaish found merit in Kumar’s plea after listening to the arguments put forth by Mehra and directed the Ministry to include his name in the list of Dronacharya awardees. “The award shall be given to the petitioner Vinod Kumar," Justice Vaish said.

The court has given the Ministry one week to challenge the decision.

It would be interesting to see whether Kumar gets the award on Saturday from President Pranab Mukherjee or the Ministry decides to approach the higher court against the judgment. The court has not cancelled Dahiya’s award; it has just asked the Ministry to consider Kumar’s name as well.

Later, a relieved Kumar told The Tribune that it would have been better if the selection panel had recommended his name on its own. “I had to fight against the injustice because I deserved the honour more than anyone else from the wrestling fraternity. I had 420 points but the committee recommended Dahiya, who has around 375 points,” he said.

“Also, my application was endorsed by Yogeshwar Dutt (London Olympics bronze medallist). I don’t know why the selection panel overlooked my credentials; they did it last year too. I felt so insulted.”

The coach said it looks bad when a deserving athlete or a coach has to knock on the doors of the court to seek justice. “The Ministry and the selection panel don’t know how to differentiate between a deserving and a non-deserving candidate. What’s the point of having a selection committee or a point-based system if the court has to decide our cases?” Kumar added.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had sacked Kumar in May this year after the team’s poor show in Doha Asian Championships. Besides, there were some disciplinary issues as well.

India’s celebrated marathon runner and 1992 Asian marathon champion Sunita Godara wasn’t amused on learning that another person has got the award after approaching the judiciary. “This has become some kind of trend now; approach the court and get the award. As long as you follow this mechanical approach of selecting an awardee, such controversies will keep coming up. You can’t have the same point-based system for every sport. You can have a world champion in power lifting, but not necessarily in athletics. This mechanical approach of treating every sport at par won’t help,” Godara said.

“The government award has become synonymous with controversy, favouritism and regionalism. I don’t know what kind of selection the awards committee is doing? It’s like the survival of the fittest where you have to fight for your right. Otherwise, you would be left far behind,” said Godara, who fought relentlessly against the ills plaguing the Indian sporting system.

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