Home India News Apex court bar to OCIs in Indian teams draws mixed reaction

Apex court bar to OCIs in Indian teams draws mixed reaction


New Delhi : The Supreme Court’s observation that Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are ineligible to represent India in sports events has evoked a mixed response from the national federations.

The government in 2008 had ruled that only India citizens would be eligible to represent the country at the international events, but the Punjab High Court last month ruled against the government fiat.

The court ruling came in response to a plea by shooter Sohrab Gill, son of Punjab Director-General of Police S.P.Gill. Sohrab was born in the United States, but returned to India when he was a year old. An OCI since 2007, Gill has represented India in the world events for juniors and won medals at the Asian Championship in Kuwait in 2007.

While arguing the case, Gill referred to home ministry notification of 2005 that stated overseas Indians are to be treated at par with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational matters.

Gill’s case was that the expression education in the notification includes sports.

But a three-judge Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice B.S. Chauhan, Thursday said foreign nationals of Indian origin or OCI, cannot, unlike NRIs, “claim any right to represent India in international sporting events.”

“An Indian team should consist of only Indians. There is no doubt about it,” Balakrishnan said.

The bench’s remark came after solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium said the question of law must be settled because “many international sporting events are immediately due.”

The Supreme Court judgment will decide the fate of quite a few sportspersons who are hoping they would get an opportunity to turn out for India again. The question assumes urgency because the Commonwealth Games are to be held Oct 3-14.

The government’s decision initially affected Indian tennis as it lost three of its top players who are based in the US — Prakash Amritraj was a member of the Davis Cup squad, and Sunitha Rao and Shikha Uberoi were in the Fed Cup team.

Prakash’s exit was not felt so much, as Rohan Bopanna filled the second singles slot behind India’s top-ranked player Somdev Devvarman and the Fed Cup team, which largely depends on its world-ranked Sania Mirza, brought in younger players to fill the void left by Shikha and Sunitha.

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) doesn’t appear to be too worried about the Supreme court ruling either way.

“We will abide by the government decision. We have been following it anyway for over year now,” AITA executive Ranbir Chauhan told IANS.

Another tennis official, who did not want to be named, said the ruling had come as a blessing in disguise for Indian tennis.

“When Sunitha and Shikha played for India, the Fed Cup team was relegated from Group I and this year we are back there with young Poojashree Venkatesh performing so well. In Davis Cup, Yuki Bhambri got an opportunity to show his potential. So, the youngsters got a chance to play and prove themselves,” he said.

“Moreover, if these players are so keen on playing for India, then they should give up their American passports,” he said.

Baljeet Sethi, secretary-general National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), however, termed the ruling “disappointing and discouraging” for young shooters based and training overseas.

“Why did the government wake up so late? At least three of our youngsters won’t be able to shoot for India, despite performing well internationally. It is not about getting medals but you are discouraging sportspersons who have been shooting for a long time,” Sethi said.