Delhi Soccer Association’s (DSA) Vice President, Nagendar Singh, against whom father of a woman football player has filed a complaint, is still allegedly accompanying girl players for matches, with a just a token action of removing him from his post from the sports body. This was revealed in the complaint filed by the father, which was taken forward by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to the DSA, demanding action. An RTI application has also been filed by one DK Bose, with the DSA, based on several complaints of sexual harassment against Singh, including that of the father who has officially filed a complaint to AIFF. Bose sought information on the various complaints filed against Singh, replies to four notices sent by the Delhi Women’s Association and action taken against Singh for this crime, as well as other financial irregularities in the DSA. His First Appeal too was not paid heed to. Thus, Bose filed his Second Appeal with the Central Information Commission (CIC).
It seems concern for sexual harassment cases in publicly important workplaces is abysmal. In one such example, Moneylife had recently highlighted how the National Commission for Women (NCW) has ignored a sexual harassment case against its own officer who is the Appellate Authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The DSA has arrogantly stonewalled the RTI application stating it is not a public authority under the RTI Act and that the application has been filed with malicious intent by Bose. However, the DSA has now got a jerk, as last fortnight, the CIC, in its order has stated that DSA is indeed a public authority under the RTI Act and has directed it to immediately appoint public information officer (PIO) and Appellate Authority (AA). Besides, in another order, the CIC directed DSA to provide all information on action taken against the sexual harassment case against Singh and provide documents to Bose.
The order by CIC M Sridhar Acharyulu, states, “The Commission has no hesitation to declare unequivocally, that being under the control of Government of India, AIFF and with grant of monopoly, that is totally established over the sport of Football within territory of NCR of Delhi, the Delhi Soccer Association is a body controlled and substantially financed by the Government of India and hence the public authority under Section 2(h) of RTI Act, 2005.”
The other CIC order regarding RTI application on sexual harassment by Singh and action taken against him, CIC orders: “ It is the duty of all public authorities including DSA, AIFF and the Ministry to clear the air of suspicion and answer the requests for information. The Commission directs the DSA, CPIOs of AIFF and the Ministry to provide the information sought along with action taken on allegations…’’
Based on Bose’s RTI application and the father’s complaint, general secretary of the All India Football Federation, Kushal Das, wrote a letter to the President of Delhi Soccer Association on 11 August 2017, seeking clarification on the allegations of sexual harassment against Vice-President, DSA. He stated in the letter, “…this is to inform you that we (AIFF) have recently been apprised through a complaint dated 28 March 2017 made to the Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) followed by an RTI application dated 25 April 2017, filed by DK Bose, that certain complaints have been filed by the women footballers registered with the DSA against Nagender Singh, Vice President, DSA regarding acts of alleged sexual harassment having been committed by him in his line of duty with the DSA. Apart from this, other relevant queries inviting our attention towards the general shabby state of affairs within the DSA, financial irregularities and other discrepancies are also included in the said complaint and RTI application.”
The letter also states: “Further, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India vide its letter dated 22 June 2017, taking due cognizance of the matter, has forwarded us a copy of an email along with other supporting documents received from one Ranvijay Singh, convenor of ‘Save Delhi Football Campaign’ claiming several complaints having been filed regarding state of football affairs and sexual harassment of girl footballers in Delhi.”
“It is needless to say that we consider the issues raised therein to be very serious in nature and of paramount importance, which under no circumstances, can be overlooked. In view of the same therefore, we call upon you to properly investigate into the matter and provide a suitable item wise reply along with relevant supporting documents, to the queries raised by the applicant in his said RTI application.”
To his reply, Subhash Chopra, President of Delhi Soccer Association on 23 August 2017 stated that, the National Commission for Women and Delhi Commission for Women have been apprised about the matter. Besides, he said, “…the DSA is not holding players on wages and not acting as their employer, hence formation of any such committee is beyond the jurisdiction of DSA.”
Chopra stated that Singh has been replaced by Dr Anju Luthra, Associate Professor & Director, Physical Education of Jesus & Marry College, a well-known sporting figure of Delhi, as new Chairperson of Women Committee and as well as a new Committee was also constituted.
Supporting the indifference in attitude, Chopra in his reply says, “During the last two and a half years, the Delhi State Women Football Committee have not received a single complaint and Delhi teams have performed creditably well in the three Nationals and finished third (Bronze) in Dibrugarh (Assam), Goa and recently concluded National held at Cuttack, Odissa). It was made possible because of the untiring efforts of Delhi State Women Committee under the guidance of DSA. I have been personally monitoring the women football activities on day to day basis.”
However, Bose has contested this information. He says, “Narendra Singh against whom allegations have been made was removed and Mohammad Haneef had been nominated as Convener in his place and not Anju Luthra, as stated by the DSA President. Luthra continues to be the Chairperson of DSA Women’s Committee and not Convener. But, practically Singh continues to enjoy the same position under the patronage of the DSA President.”
The Delhi Commission for Women has sent four notices to DSA, demanding explanation and action taken against Singh but DSA has ignored them.
The CIC in his order has observed, “Appellant is seeking information about action on the various complaints of sexual harassment against the Vice President of the DSA, which also need to be answered by the Ministry.
How can the Ministry ensure smooth facilitation of football promotion and encouraging women in football if such allegations remain pending? Is it not the duty of the Ministry to ensure safety for women in sport of football? How is it that an office bearer is continuing in such position in spite of the complaints? It is common for a club/association to make complaints against DSA for not permitting their players to play or for any other grievance. But one cannot brush aside the complaints simply because they came from a disgruntled element.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)