Bangalore, Sep 21
The two-year ban on Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna for having refused to pair with Leander Paes at the London Olympics may be untenable on four counts, according to a sports law expert.
One of them is the seemingly unilateral decision by All India Tennis Association to ban the two players without the permission of the National Olympic Committee and two, the constitution of the federation’s ethics committee, which recommended the ban on Sept 13.
According to Vidushpat Singhania, the constitution of the ethics panel gives rise to many questions. “How was this committee constituted? The principles of natural justice require that a decision-imposing body should comprise of independent, impartial and competent people. Can the AITA guarantee that?” he asked.
One interesting observation made was whether the sanctions were proportionate to the offence committed. “For example, the punishment for a first-time doping offence is a two-year ban. Before the implementation of the WADA Code 2009, some of the sport bodies sought a three-year ban for the first-time offence. This was challenged before a Munich court as being disproportionate.
The court held that the three-year suspension for a first offence represents the highest threshold admissible under the fundamental rights and democratic principles and is inappropriate and disproportionate,” added Singhania.
The other important aspect is the role of the Indian Olympic Association. “The International Tennis Federation, AITA’s parent body, in its regulation covering the 2012 Olympic tennis event, states that all disputes pertaining to the Olympic Games would be under the ambit of the NOC. Hence the question, can a ban be imposed by AITA, violating its parent body’s regulation and without express written consent by IOA?” he asked.
Even without such consent from IOA, the question is whether AITA has adhered to the principles of natural justice and a fair hearing. “The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has laid down that all sporting institutions must abide by the general principles of law. To start with, a show cause notice should have been issued to Bhupathi and Bopanna, laying down the charge against them and the relevant provision under which action is being taken. The date and time of the hearing should also be provided whilst giving them a chance to submit their defense and then giving a reasoned award,” Singhania pointed out.