Delhi High Court upholds Bajrang, Vinesh's Asian Games trials exemption

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat have had their exemptions from Asian Games trials upheld. Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The decision to name Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat in India's Asian Games wrestling team without trials has been upheld by the Delhi High Court on Saturday, as they dismissed the petition filed by wrestlers Antim Panghal and Sujeet Kalkal.

Almost at the same time in the Indira Gandhi stadium, Delhi, Antim won her women's freestyle 53kg trials final after the Indian Olympic Association-appointed ad-hoc committee held the trials while the Court's judgement was awaited. As per the committee's directive released earlier this week, Antim will now be named as the reserve for this weight category at the Asian Games.

"It is nobody's case that [Bajrang and Vinesh] are not well known in their respective categories. In fact, both the athletes are in the World Top 10 rankings and, therefore, the categorisation of these athletes as elite athletes also cannot be said to be perverse or arbitrary," the court said.

"The Asian Games are to begin in about two months' time and in case injury is caused to the elite athletes, who are medal probables, the time for recovery is extremely low and, therefore, the decision taken by the Committee to exempt [Bajrang and Vinesh] from selection trials in order to ensure that they are not exposed to injuries during trials cannot be said to be arbitrary or capricious or perverse."

"It is neither the contention of the Petitioners nor can it be said that the WFI has acted against the interest of the country or that the decision has been taken because of certain extraneous circumstances or in order to favour anyone," the court added.

Post winning the trials, Antim told the press she would contest this judgement. "Our fight will continue till justice is served... I will give my 100% to win. We have been practising for so many years, what is the point of sending directly, should we also stop our practice?"

Earlier on Wednesday, Antim and Sujeet had moved the Delhi High Court after the ad-hoc committee's decision to provide an exemption for the defending Asian Games champions (and reigning World Championship medalists). This exemption had come about after they and four other wrestlers who had been sitting in protest against former Wrestling Federation of India chief sought an extension in the trial date till early August. While that extension was not feasible due to the reported deadline imposed by the organisers of the Asian Games for participant submission, the committee had provided the exemption to Vinesh and Bajrang basis a specific clause in the WFI rules for selection trials. The clause stated, "Asian Games: The Selection Trials in all weight categories are mandatory, however, the Selection Committee will have the discretion to select the iconic players like medallists of Olympic / World Championship without trials provided recommendation by Chief Coach / Foreign Expert."

The court had then, on Thursday, issued a notice to the ad-hoc committee and sought a response on Friday. After hearing arguments that day, they had set aside judgement till Saturday.

Meanwhile, in the trials conducted on Saturday, Antim beat Manju by fall inside two minutes after a dominant run through the trials in which she also beat Neha Sharma 12-2 and Tamanna 7-2.