New Delhi: Hockey coach Sandeep Sangwan was not considered for the Dronacharya Award (Regular Category) for 2021 as more meritorious persons than him were found eligible for the award, the Centre said in the Delhi High Court on Friday.

Noting the submissions made by the Centre, the high court sought response of the government on Sangwan’s plea challenging the decision of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports which excluded him from the Dronacharya Award (Regular Category).

Justice Rekha Palli issued notice and asked the Centre to respond to the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on December 23.

In pursuance to the court’s earlier direction to seek instructions in the matter, Central government standing counsel Anil Soni said there are more meritorious persons who were found at more advantageous position than the petitioner.

He said it was decided that this being an Olympics and Paralympics year, and in view of the outstanding performance of athletes in these events, the recommendations of selection committee for increase in Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Award is acceptable.

However, in other categories there is no justification to increase the number of awards beyond the number mentioned in the scheme and definitely not beyond what was given in 2020. Accordingly, only five names each in Dronacharya (lifetime category), Dronacharya (regular category) and Dhyanchand lifetime achievement award were finalized for the awards, he submitted.

The court, which did not agree for calling the records in a sealed cover at this stage, asked the authorities to keep the documents ready for its perusal, if the need arises.

Sangwan, who claims to be a renowned Hockey coach, said he was ignored by the Centre from being considered for the Dronacharya Award despite being found meritorious by the Selection Committee for Sports Award 2021.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing Sangwan, submitted that he was ignored despite being the most meritorious candidate who secured the highest points for the sport of hockey in terms of the Scheme for Dronacharya Award for Outstanding Coaches in Sports and Games of the ministry.

The plea, filed through advocate R Arunadhri Iyer, said: The petitioner is given to understand that for the sport of Hockey, four persons had applied, including the petitioner, and of this, he had scored more than twice of what the next highest candidate in terms of the Scheme and Criteria.

The petitioner is also given to understand from reliable and trustworthy sources that the candidate who eventually has now been awarded the Award had scored less than half of what the petitioner had scored in terms of the Scheme/ Criteria. In the circumstances, awarding the Award to the said candidate to the exclusion of the petitioner is contrary to the express provisions of…the Criteria .

The plea sought direction to the authorities to call for the records of and quashing of the November 2 decision of the ministry by which Sangwan was excluded from the award.

It also sought to direct the ministry to additionally confer the Dronacharya Award (Regular Category) for 2021 to Sangwan for his performance as a coach based on merit as per the points system introduced in compliance with the high court’s earlier orders.

The plea also sought to lay down a proper time schedule for declaration of the Dronacharya Award and other sports awards in future, by the end of May every year so as to provide reasonable time and opportunity to elite sportspersons in this regard.

The petitioner said he is a highly qualified and experienced coach for the sport of Hockey, having trained four of the members of the team that obtained bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, 2020, apart from numerous other Olympians, as well as Padma Shri and Arjuna awardees and a Khel Ratna awardee.

Having been a coach for over 15 years, Sangwan has also functioned as a coach and a manager on multiple occasions for the National Men’s team, the plea said.

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