In a bid to crack down on National Sports Federation (NSF) heads who have been occupying the posts for too long, the Sports Ministry on Sunday said NSF chiefs in office for more than a decade will have to step down after their current term expires.
The Ministry has modified a 1975 regulation that means Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi and several NSF chiefs including V K Malhotra (archery), Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (cycling), VK Verma (badminton), captain Satish K Sharma (aero club) and BS Adityan (volleyball) cannot seek a re-election after their present term expires.
The move is also being interpreted as a fallout of Sports Minister M S Gill's ongoing feud with Kalmadi, who has been at the helm since 1996.
The Ministry said it has decided to restore the modified tenure clause, which was kept in abeyance by former Sports Minister Uma Bharti in 2001, to encourage "professional management, good governance, transparency, accountability, democratic elections, etc. in NSFs, including IOA."
The original 1975 regulation introduced by the Indira Gandhi government had capped the tenure of the president, the secretary and the treasurer at not more than two consecutive terms of four years each.
The modified clause caps the tenure of the president of an NSF, including IOA, to 12 years "with or without break".
For the secretary and the treasurer, it shall not be more than two successive tenures of four years each.
"The secretary and the treasurer shall be eligible for standing for re-election to the post after a minimum interval of four years," the Ministry said.
"Further, there will be a retirement age of 70 years for all the members and office bearers," it added.
Most of the NSFs have politicians at the top, while bureaucrats and businessmen too have been found clinging onto the top posts for long.
BJP leader VK Malhotra is heading the Archery Association of India for more than three decades.
Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa's reign as the Cycling Federation of India head is into its 14th year while VK Verma, a bureaucrat, is ruling Badminton Association of India for 12 years.
Congress leader captain Satish K Sharma heads the Aero Club for 24 years, while B S Adityan, a businessman, has been at the helm of the Volleyball Federation of India for 12 years. Others who have been ruling NSFs for nearly a decade include Digvijay Singh (shooting), Ajay Singh Chautala (table tennis), Yashwant Sinha (tennis), Abhay Singh Chautala (boxing), Ashoke Ghosh (kho kho), KP Singh Deo (rowing) and KN Kapur (swimming).
The ministry said all previous efforts to limit the tenure met stiff resistance from NSFs, who cited the autonomy provided to them in the Olympic Charter.
The Ministry, on its part, cited a 2009 Delhi High Court observation that the tenure clause is not a violation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter.
The Sports Ministry said it has examined and found that major international sports bodies, including that of hockey, badminton and swimming, have their own tenure limit.
"International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself, which is mother body of all sporting federations, enforces limits on the tenure of its executive members, vice-presidents and the president, besides enforcing a retirement age of seventy years on all its members elected after December, 1999," the Ministry pointed out.
"Hence, it is amply clear that the practice of imposing the limits on the tenure of the office bearers of sporting bodies is widely prevalent and internationally accepted and is also one of the critical ingredients of good governance, which prevents development of vested interests in the management of sporting bodies," it added.
Reckoning that the modified clause brings NSF tenure regulation in line with that of IOC, the Ministry said, "The above mentioned tenure limit shall come into operation with immediate effect for all elections conducted henceforth.
"However, in the case of existing office bearers who are attracting the above restrictions, but were duly elected to their posts, and are currently serving their tenure, the tenure limit will be enforceable only after the expiry of the current tenure."
The current NSF and IOA management was challenged in a Public Interest Litigation filed before the Delhi High Court, which has expressed deep concern at the long indecisiveness of the Government on this critical issue, the Ministry said.
The Court has directed the Government to clarify its stand and produce relevant records on the next date of hearing on May 5, the Ministry added.