In their petition, Antim Panghal and Sujeet Kalkal raised concerns about the exemption given to Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, two of India’s top wrestlers, from participating in the Asian Games trials. The direct entry offered to Phogat and Punia by the Indian Olympic Association’s ad-hoc committee was a decision that stirred controversy within the wrestling community.
The High Court’s decision to dismiss the plea came as a significant blow to Panghal and Kalkal, who were hoping for a fair selection process for the quadrennial showpiece event. They believed that the special treatment granted to Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia in the men’s freestyle 65kg and women’s 53kg categories compromised the integrity of the selection trials, which are traditionally held to determine the best contenders for representing the country at prestigious sporting events like the Asian Games.
However, the court’s ruling sided with the IOA’s decision to allow Phogat and Punia direct entry into the Asian Games based on their previous achievements and records. This exemption meant that these top wrestlers were not required to participate in the selection trials that other athletes had to go through to earn their places in the Indian squad. The judgment, delivered by Justice Subramonium Prasad, stated that the writ petition challenging the direct entry was dismissed, leaving Phogat and Punia’s exemption intact.
The case has been closely followed by the wrestling fraternity and sports enthusiasts across the nation. While some believed that the direct entry for accomplished athletes like Phogat and Punia was justified as a recognition of their exceptional contributions to Indian wrestling, others argued that it may have deprived other deserving wrestlers of a fair chance to prove their mettle and secure a spot on the Asian Games team.
Despite the court’s ruling, the issue has sparked debates on the selection process for sporting events in India and the importance of providing equal opportunities to all athletes. While Phogat and Punia’s credentials are undisputed, the wrestling community now faces the challenge of striking a balance between recognizing excellence and ensuring a fair playing field for all aspiring wrestlers. As the sporting landscape continues to evolve, the selection procedures are likely to come under more scrutiny, prompting the authorities to revisit and refine their approach to maintaining fairness and transparency in sports selections.