New Delhi :Hockey India on Tuesday became the latest sports federation to reject government grant and go ahead with its upcoming elections by defying the Sports Ministry's age limitation guideline.
In yet another snub to the Ministry, Hockey India said that it will conduct its elections as per its constitution and will not tolerate any interference from outside, thus becoming the third sports body after IOA and Badminton Association of India to refuse government aid.
On a day of high drama, Vidya Stokes' nomination for HI president's post was accepted by the Returning Officer, setting the stage for a showdown with the Sports Ministry.
Stokes' candidature came under scanner yesterday after the Sports Ministry made it clear that the "No Objection" given to Hockey India for the July 28 polls was conditional and would apply only on abiding with the recent age limitation guidelines of the government.
Stokes, who earlier held the post of Indian Women's Hockey Federation chief, is presently 83 and as per the government guidelines no official who is 70 or above is eligible to contest elections of National Sports Federations.
But Justice Justice R C Chopra approved of Stokes' nomination after Hockey India refused to go by the government's guidelines, saying the national body was bound by the Societies Act and its own Constitution.
The HI's decision to ignore government funds came to light later in the evening when Sports Ministry observer SK Mendiratta submitted his report.
"Narinder Batra (Stokes' representative) categorically made a statement before the Returning Officer that the Hockey India was not asking for any financial grant or facilities from the Government and, therefore, the Hockey India was not obliged to follow and implement Policy Guidelines of the Government," the report said.
"They also submitted that HI was prepared to face the consequences of not following the Government's Policy Guidelines. Taking note of these, Returning Officer accepted the nomination of Stokes, by passing a speaking order," Mendiratta said in the letter.
Hockey India secretary general Batra doubted government's intention and said the conditional "No Objection" given to them last year does not mention guidelines on age.
"We duly accept government's guidelines on tenure limitation of two terms of four years each. When we got the 'No Objection' from the government in August 2009, age limitation was not there. We don't accept the amendments made in the guidelines in May 2010 because they were not made with clear intentions," Batra told PTI.
"We are not governed by the government, we are governed by the Societies Act and by our own Constitution. The government has no right to interfere in our Constitution," he said.
Recently, the Badminton Federation of India had also defied the government guidelines and re-elected VK Verma as its president for another term past the revised 12 years limit.
If that was not enough, Verma even said BAI had become self-sufficient and did not need government funding to run the sport in the country.
Batra too hinted at adopting BAI's policy and said the national game will continue to run even if the government decides to stop pumping in money.
"Hockey is our national sport, so if the government stops funding it will be very sad. But numerous lovers of the game still exist in the country who, I know, will come forward to support the game.
"If the government stops funding its their wish. It won't affect hockey in the country," said Batra, who will be contesting for the secretary general's post.
Former India captain Pargat Singh is also in the running for the president's post of Hockey India along with Stokes.