The Sports Ministry assured that tennis star Sania Mirza would be receiving the Khel Ratna award as scheduled on August 29 despite the Karnataka High Court issuing notices to the player and the Ministry on Monday on the plea of para-athlete HN Girisha.
Girisha challenged the recommendation of Sania for the prestigious award by the 12-member Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards Committee, headed by retired chief justice of the Kerala High Court VK Bali.
The petitioner, Girisha, has contended that as per the marks criterion, he has 90 to his account including 70 marks for silver medal at the London Paralympics in 2012 and 20 marks for bronze medal at the Asian Games in 2014. The marks have been earned from 2011 to 2014. Girisha claimed that Sania Mirza has not got any medal during the assessment period. The silver medalist at the London Paralympics, Girisha said that he had written to the ministry to consider his application for the said award and that oral assurances had been given to him. But his name was not announced. To protect his right of merit and right of legitimate expectation, he has approached the High Court.
He also argued in his petition that Sania’s Wimbledon women’s doubles title, which she won with Swiss Martina Hingis, should not be counted for the award as it was not included in the sports events mentioned in the government notification for awarding Khel Ratna.
However, sports secretary Ajit Sharan clarified that it was not a stay order and that the High Court had just admitted the plea of Girisha. “The function will go on as scheduled. Sania will be getting the award,” Sharan told Deccan Herald.
Meanwhile, Justice Bali explained that marks were not the sacrosanct criterion to get the award.
“As per the government rule, marks are not the sole criterion to get the award. For example a sport like cricket does not figure in Olympics or Asian Games or Commonwealth Games or World Championships. So we give points for the events which were equivalent to them,” Justice Bali told Deccan Herald.
”Sania Mirza won the Wimbledon which is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. She has won three titles (two Grand Slams and WTA Final) last year. Also one cannot compare the points of two different sports. It can only happen if the two players are from the same sport. We have been fair and videographed the entire meeting,” he said.
The rule states: “Selection Committee may not mechanically recommend Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna to the recipient of the highest marks across disciplines. But in a particular sports discipline, award will be recommended only for the recipient of the highest aggregate marks.” Sania is already in India to attend the awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.