HC stays ban on Bhupathi, Bopanna

HC stays ban on Bhupathi, Bopanna

The Karnataka High Court on Saturday ordered interim stay on the two-year ban imposed on tennis players Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna from representing the country.

Hearing a writ petition filed by the two, challenging the two- year ban by the All Indian Tennis Association (AITA), Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar also ordered issue of emergent notices to AITA and the Ministry for Sports.

Aditya Sondhi, the counsel for Bhupathi and Bopanna challenged the AITA decision on the grounds that no notice was served to them before imposing the ban.

Terming the ban as “excessive and harsh”, he also contended that the AITA failed to inform them of the decision to ban them till June 2014 from representing the country and they learnt about the ban through the media.

The petitioners contended they had informed the AITA of their preference to play with each other as doubles partners for Olympics. Yet the selection committee chose to pair Bhupathi with Leander Paes without consideration of the strengths and weaknesses and their preparedness.

Unlike Paes, however, the petitioners contended “at no time did the petitioners threaten the AITA with withdrawal from the Olympics and consistently communicated their willingness to make themselves available to be nominated together as a team to the men’s doubles event at the Olympics based on their preparations together.”

The duo said they were shocked to discover from media reports that the AITA had “banned” them from representing India till June 30, 2014.

The also contended they were made aware only through the media that the decision was taken under Rule 36 (a)(ii) of AITA Rules, which related to suspension of players not placing themselves at the disposal of  the AITA, when required to represent the country and declining to do so without good reason. The rule allegedly relied on by the AITA for arriving at the decision is entirely inapplicable, particularly when the two players represented the country together in the Men’s Doubles event at the said Olympics based on the selection choice made by AITA, they contended. 

“The decision allegedly taken by the Ethics Committee of the AITA on September 13 which was purportedly approved by the executive committee of the AITA is without jurisdiction, arbitrary, high-handed and contrary to the principles of natural justice, the petitioners argued.

According to Bhupathi and Bopanna, the decision to ban them has not been communicated to them so far and was discriminatory and that no action had been taken against Leander Paes, who threatened to withdraw from the Olympics if his wish to be paired with either Bopanna or Bhupathi was not acceded to.

Bopanna welcomed the High Court stay.  “Fantastic News.... The Ban or not to consider us till 2014 @MaheshBhupathi and myself has been stayed by Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka..,” Bopanna tweeted.

Meanwhile, the AITA, said it has not received the copy of the stay. “We respect the judiciary and will accept its decision. But we are yet to receive any notification about the stay order. Once we get the copy, we will decide on the action to be taken,” AITA’s chairman of the selection committee, Anil Dhupar told Deccan Herald.

Dhupar also said that since India is playing its next tie only in 2013, AITA has enough time on its hands. “There is no urgency. India is not playing any matches this year. So these are still early days,” he said. “Also I would like to repeat that there is no ban on the players.”

The AITA took the decision in its executive committee meeting in Chandigarh last week. It was taken on disciplinary grounds after the two players refused to partner Leander Paes for the London Olympics.

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