The Delhi High Court on Saturday declined to interfere with the exemption granted to top wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia from the trials for the Asian Games. Justice Subramaniam Prasad dismissed the pleas of U-20 world champion Anand Panghal and U-23 Asian champion Sujit Kalkal against allowing Phogat and Punia direct entry to participate in the tournament. The judge said, ‘The writ petition is dismissed.’
Wrestlers had reached the High Court on July 19
Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and Bajrang Punia (65kg) were on Tuesday given direct entry for the Asian Games by the Indian Olympic Association’s ad-hoc committee, while other wrestlers will have to confirm their places in the Indian team through selection trials on July 22 and 23. Panghal and Kalkal approached the High Court on July 19, challenging the exemption. Both had demanded a fair selection process for this showpiece event.
Demand to cancel exemption in selection trial
The petition, filed by advocates Hrishikesh Baruah and Akshay Kumar, sought that the direction issued by the IOA ad-hoc committee in respect of the two categories (men’s freestyle 65kg and women’s 53kg) be set aside and the exemption granted to Phogat and Punia be cancelled. Earlier, another woman wrestler Sakshi Malik had posted a video on social media saying that she had never demanded exemption in the selection trial. She has never done this before and will not do so in future also.
Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia got permission to practice abroad, also got exemption in selection trial
Junior wrestlers gheraoed the IOA headquarters
A day after their protest in Haryana’s Hisar, several junior wrestlers, their parents and coaches on Thursday reached the Indian Olympic Association headquarters and demanded withdrawal of the exemption granted to Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia from the Asian Games trials. Around 150 people, including family members of the wrestlers, were demanding a meeting with Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha and ad-hoc panel chief Bhupender Singh Bajwa.
Atim Panghal’s coach said this
Vikas Bhardwaj, coach of U-20 champion Ultimate Panghal, told PTI that we only want a meeting with top IOA officials. We will not accept any biased decision. This is wrong. We have come here to request the panel to withdraw the exemption given to Bajrang and Vinesh. However, he could not meet the top IOA officials. World Championship and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Anshu Malik also expressed his support for the junior wrestlers in a tweet. Malik was part of the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar in January.
Sakshi Malik also filed a protest
Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik on Thursday said she never sought exemption from Asian Games trials despite an IOA ad-hoc panel offering to consider her case like compatriots Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. He also alleged that the move to exempt Vinesh and Bajrang from trial is an attempt by the government to break the unity of the wrestlers. Sakshi, who competes in the 62kg category, was at the forefront of protests against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, along with Vinesh (53kg) and Bajrang (65kg). He has also supported junior wrestlers and called it wrong.
The government had also asked for an application from Sakshi
Sakshi said in a video posted on social media that as you all know, we had sought additional time from the government to prepare for the Asian Games. We requested them to conduct our trials after August 10 and the government also gave us time, after which we came here for training. But, in the last 3-4 days, it has come to light that direct entries are being sent for two weights (categories). He made it clear that he was against the exemption and hence turned down the offer to consider him as an Olympic medalist. Sakshi said, “I was also asked to e-mail that my name will also be considered. But I have refused, I don’t want to go without trial.” Sakshi further said, “All I want to say is that everyone should get a chance for justice and a fair selection.” Sakshi is currently taking training in America.