Defying the government's age limitation guidelines, Vidya Stokes's nomination for Hockey India president's post was on Tuesday accepted by the returning officer, setting the stage for a showdown between the Sports Ministry and the national federation.
Stokes's candidature came under the scanner on Monday after the Sports Ministry made it clear that the "No Objection" given to Hockey India for the July 28 polls was conditional and would apply only on abiding with the recent age limitation guidelines of the government.
Stokes, who earlier held the post of Indian Women's Hockey Federation chief, is presently 83 and as per the government guidelines no official who is 70 or above is eligible to contest elections of National Sports Federations.
But Justice Justice R C Chopra approved of Stokes' nomination after Hockey India refused to go by the government's guidelines, saying the national body was bound by the Societies Act and its own Constitution.
Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra, who was present during the scrutiny of the nomination papers on Tuesday as Stokes's representative, doubted government's intention and said the conditional "No Objection" given to them last year does not mention guidelines on age.
"We duly accept government's guidelines on tenure limitation of two terms of four years each. When we got the 'No Objection' from the government in August 2009, age limitation was not there. We don't accept the amendments made in the guidelines in May 2010 because they were not made with clear intentions," Batra said.
"We are not governed by the government, we are governed by the Societies Act and by our own Constitution. The government has no right to interfere in our Constitution," he said.
Recently, the Badminton Federation of India had also defied the government guidelines and re-elected VK Verma as its president for another term past the revised 12 years limit.
If that was not enough, Verma even said BAI had become self-sufficient and did not need government funding to run the sport in the country.
Batra too hinted at adopting BAI's policy and said the national game will continue to run even if the government decides to stop pumping in money.
"Hockey is our national sport, so if the government stops funding it will be very sad. But numerous lovers of the game still exist in the country who, I know, will come forward to support the game.
"If the government stops funding, it's their wish. It won't affect hockey in the country," said Batra, who will be contesting for the secretary general's post.
Government-appointed election observer of Hockey India polls S K Mendiratta, who was also present during the scrutiny of nominations, said the ball is now in the Sports Ministry's court.
"The returning officer, Justice Chopra, accepted Stokes' nomination because Hockey India officials said they were not bound by government's guidelines. They said they will go by their by-laws and are ready to face any consequences," Mendiratta said.
"I will submit my report to the Sports Ministry and it now upto the Ministry to decide what action it wants to take against Hockey India," he said.
Mendiratta also informed that all the nominations for the 17 posts of Hockey India executive board were accepted, except for Karnataka State Hockey Association secretary K Krishnamurthy, who is a member of former India captain Pargat Singh's faction.
Pargat is also in the running for the president's post of Hockey India along with Stokes.