The Sports Ministry has decided to go ahead with it’s original decision to confer the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on Sania Mirza on August 29. This, despite the Karnataka High Court issuing notices to the government and tennis ace over the petition filed by Paralympian HN Girisha, who has challenged the recommendation of the awards selection panel.
A senior ministry official told dna that the court’s notice will not cast any shadow on the awards ceremony on August 29 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and that the original awards list will be implemented in totality.
“The ministry will not make any last-minute changes to the awards list. Sania will get the Khel Ratna as per the awards committee’s recommendation. The decision is final,” a senior official said on Thursday.
The official informed that the ministry has received the court notice on Thursday and will be filing its reply within the stipulated 15 days. “Yes, we have received the notice. We will give reply to the notice in due course. The ministry will frame its reply after going through the contents of it. We will explain out everything to the court,” the official added.
Justice AS Bopanna of the Karnataka High Court has sought reply from the ministry as to why Girisha’s name was overlooked in favour of Sania, considering the points system being implemented by the Union government.
Girisha, 2012 London Paralympic silver medallist, had contended in his plea that he deserved to win the coveted award more than Sania because he was the top candidate with 90 points against his name and the tennis star was far behind him as per performance-based points system.
Girisha said Sania’s Wimbledon doubles crown would not be counted for the coveted award as it was not included in the events mentioned in the government notification for awarding Khel Ratna. He said the ministry should consider a sportsperson’s name for the award taking into account performances at the Olympics, Paralympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships from 2011.
Sania, who won her first women’s doubles Grand Slam title by lifting the Wimbledon crown with Swiss partner Martina Hingis in June, was recommended for the country’s highest sporting honour by a government-appointed selection panel. The sports ministry has also given its approval on Sania getting the coveted award.
The ministry’s decision has come at a time when at least five disgruntled athletes have filed court cases challenging the recommendations of the awards committee.
While Seema Antil (discus throw), Vinod Kumar (wrestling coach), KC Lekha (woman boxer), Shaik Abdul Hameed (ten-pin bowling) and Girisha have already filed the cases in different courts, dope-tainted weightlifting coach Shyamala Shetty will be approaching the judiciary on Monday against the ministry’s decision to drop her name from the Dronacharya award list.
“This is the most contentious awards ceremony ever seen where athletes are hankering for Khel Ratna or Arjuna award. This year’s award ceremony is engulfed by so many court cases that it has itself demeaned the value of the honour,” said the official.