The Delhi High Court directed the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) selection committee to consider high jumper Tejaswin Shankar’s name for the upcoming 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the athlete’s lawyer said.
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Justice Jasmeet Singh issued a notice and sought a response from the AFI, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the selection committee of the AFI on the petition.
Shankar’s lawyer Malak Bhatt, moved the High Court challenging the decision of the AFI to exclude him from participating in the 2022 CWG. Bhatt argued that this decision was taken despite Shankar being a national high jump record holder and the only Indian to have met the AFI qualification standard of 2.27 metres while winning a gold medal at the NCAA track and field outdoor championship in the US city of Eugene, Oregon, this year.
“The court has asked the AFI to consider his name for the CWG games and apprise it on its decision on Friday,” Bhatt told The Indian Express.
On June 16, the AFI released its 37-member contingent for the CWG and Shankar’s name was omitted. His lawyers had submitted a series of WhatsApp chats between Shankar and the head coach appointed by the AFI, who gave the impression that his jump at NCAA meet would “count towards qualification for the CWG 2022.”
His lawyers asked the HC to direct the AFI not to disqualify the petitioner from participating at the CWG 2022 based on non-attendance at the Interstate championships, and be allowed to participate on the basis of having met the qualifying standard at the NCAA championships.
They argued that it cannot be the case that AFI didn’t recognise the NCAA competition and that the petitioner “cannot be penalised for choosing to compete in a more competitive event while training to be the very best at the international level.”
His lawyer told the court that the high jump is an objective sport and it “cannot be said that a jump at the NCAA would be different from a jump at the Interstate championships.”
“That ultimately, it is the nation’s chances at winning medals at the CWG 2022 that will be made to suffer because of the pedantic and parochial nature of the AFI’s selection criteria. It is key to note that in any case, no other high jumper from India has been selected nor will they be disadvantaged by such a decision, not having met the qualification standard as set by the AFI,” the petition read.
In its 37-member squad for the Commonwealth Games, announced last week, the AFI had also omitted long jumper Jeswin Aldrin who has achieved the qualifying guidelines (8 metres) and has the second-best jump by an Indian this season.
Post the initial snub Tejaswin wrote to the federation seeking a trial in California where the India team is likely to hold a camp ahead of the World Championships in Oregon. The federation was quick to respond saying that selection “was final” and both Tejsaswin and Jeswin would not be provided with a trial.
On the day of the squad announcement, the AFI president said Tejaswin had never sought an exemption for the Inter-State Meet unlike Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Seema Punia.
“It was clearly mentioned on the website this was the last event where one could try to register the qualification standard for the CWG and Worlds. Tejaswin did not want to be selected. Mr Shankar did not ask to be exempted from the Inter-State Championships. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told reporters after announcing the team on Thursday.