Yesterday, ParaSport News acquired a copy of the judgment of the High Court of Delhi dated to Thursday regarding Indian discus thrower Karam Jyoti’s petition to be included on the Indian athletics team going to the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio. The High Court of Delhi rejected this petition, claiming the selection process was fair and the Sports Authority of India is the rightful actor when it comes to serving as the National Parlaympic Committee for India given the suspension of the Paralympic Committee of India.
Jyoti’s petition sought to have the Indian selection trials held for a second time, citing Jyoti’s pair of medals won at the 2014 Para Asian Games and her performance at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. She argues that as an individual, she individually earned the quota position for India based on her performance in Doha and her ranking in the top 5 in her event in her class. She also argues that the IPC rules state that qualification spots are given to individuals who are members an NPC, not the NPC itself.
IPC Rio Qualification documents show that three highest ranked sportspeople among the top five ranked sports in each event as of April 2016 who had not already earned a qualifying spot for their NPC earned a qualifying spot for their NPC. Each athlete could earn a maximum of one spot for their NPC using this formula. If there are spots that are not allocated via this method, IPC Athletics then allocated the remaining slots to an NPC based on athletes having met the A Qualifying standard for the event. The maximum number of slots available to an NPC via this route is one.
For athletics at the Rio Games, qualification spots earned at eligible competitions are allocated to the National Paralympic Committee (NPC). In turn, the NPC then selects their own eligible sportspeople based on internal criteria. Exceptions to this exist for Universal Wild Cards, which are allocated directly to athletes if an NPC has qualified one or no athletes in any of the 22 sports on the Paralympic program. Bipartite Commission Invitation are also extended individually to athletes by name. 10 of these spots in athletics are for women, and the IPC reserves the right to assign sportspeople to these slots to protect the viability of medal events. Names for Bipartite Commission Invitation slots needed to be submitted by the athletes’ NPC by June 20 of this year.
Quota spots for an NPC in athletics were given based on several qualification routes. Excluding the marathon, the top two finishers at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in each event, except the marathon, earned one qualification spot for their NPC. If an athlete finished in the top two in more than one event, they only earned one qualifying sport for their NPC. India did not earn any additional spots via this route.
NPCs could nominate athletes to fill their national quotes based on IPC specified eligibility requirements. These include having a 2016 IPC Athletics Athlete License, having at least one B Qualifying Score at an IPC Athletics recognized competition between October 2014 and August 2016, and having a Confirmed or Reviewed status for their international classification. A NPC can nominate a maximum of three athletes or one team per event provided all athletes have met all eligibility requirements.
At the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships, Jyoti finished fourth in the women’s F55 discus throw with a personal best throw of 19.51 meters. The throw met the B qualifying mark of 14.00 meters but the finish was not enough to earn India a qualification spot. Qualification spots by Indians at the World Championships for India were earned by Devendra in the men’s F46 javelin throw with a second place finish, and Amit Kumar Kumar in the men’s F51 club throw with a second place finish.
The qualification route via rankings gave Indian an additional four qualification spots for men and one for women. India had a number of athletes who were ranked in the top five as of April 1, though because of lack of B-qualifying scores, international classification being completed, because others qualified ahead of them and because some were ranked in events with no Paralympic medal, not all earned medals.
On May 2, IPC Athletics opened the process for NPCs to nominate their athletes for Bipartite Commission Invitation slots. Four days later, IPC Athletics confirmed in writing the total allocation of NPC based slots via rankings. NPCs had until May 27 to confirm these slots.
In the case of Karam Jyoti, as of the April 2016 ranking period, she was ranked seventh in the discus and was unranked in the javelin and shot put. This is a result of medal events on the Rio program. The F53 class for the fielding events for women only included the shot put and javelin. For the F55 women’s field class events, only the javelin and discus are on the program.
Of the athletes ranked ahead of her in the discus, Brunei’s Rooba Alomari, Colombia’s Erica Maria Castano Salazar, and Latvia’s Diana Dadzite had not qualified through previous methods. All all would have been allocated spots for their NPC ahead of her. The top two spots were previously awarded by virtue of finishes at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, with Buggenhagen finishing first and Dong finishing second.
As of May 2016, the IPC had allocated one spot for an Indian woman at the 2016 Summer Paralympics following the allocation based on rankings. It is unclear from public IPC communications which sportswoman earned this spot for India as neither Malik nor Karam appeared immediately eligible based on their finishes at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships and their rankings.
Athletes seeking qualification based on A-qualifying scores had until June 30th to set them for consideration for unallocated slots as a result of rankings leading to athletes not being qualified via the previous criteria. India had several athletes eligible via this method, with Avnil Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Manoj Baskar, Sandeep Singh Singh, Gyanender Singh, Anandan Gunasekaran, Ramkaran Singh, Karam Jyoti and Deepa Malik all having met this requirement in one or more events.
In any event, the court filings say, “Athletics rankings over a 12 month period commencing from 01.04.2015 to 01.04.2016 ranks No. 5 in the world in the discipline of “Women Discus Throw”.” This information is not supported by IPC records. The April 2016 World Rankings do show Jyoti ranked fifth, but that fifth place ranking is for the month of March 2016 and was published on April 1, 2016.
These rankings do support a claim that Jyoti was ranked fifth, but they do not support a claim of higher ranking than Malik. They are also completely irrelevant as they were not the basis of IPC allocation based on their published criteria. Even if they were, these rankings make a stronger case for Malik’s inclusion than Jyoti’s inclusion.
Jyoti’s petition to the court included references to allocation of slots that directly contradicted IPC Athletics specific criteria. The petition quotes “Each sport is given a fixed number (quota) of athletes that may participate in the Games. The allocation of these qualification slots is then attributed to either an individual athlete/team or to their NPC depending on the sport and the respective qualification method.” from the IPC guide. This is not supported by the more specific qualification criteria for athletics, and those sport specific criteria do not establish that Jyoti earning a women’s slot for India. The contention of “It is contended that it is for the first time that any female athlete had earned the Quota on her own merits and since the petitioner had earned the Quota on her own merits, the petitioner alone has the right to represent India.” is not actually proven by available IPC records.
Court documents show Sports Authority of India though did not dispute that the spot was earned by Jyoti, but does dispute that the spot was allocated specifically to an athlete and not the NPC. They quoted the above references qualification criteria in their own defense. Sports Authority of India then goes on to say that the NPC in then having been allocated a spot held a selection trial on July 26, 2016 for the single spot. At those trials, Jyoti disputed the total number of throws in her event and subsequently had her protest turned down. They also said that based on other ranking criteria, Malik’s opportunities for a medal were much higher than Jyotis. Support of this is visible in the rankings, which show Malik’s AQS as 0.6 meters away from the top ranked sportswoman and 0.32 meters away from the third ranked sportswoman. In comparison, Jyoti AQS was nearly 6 meters less than the top ranked sportswoman in her class, and 1.39 meters short of the third ranked sportswoman in her class. Both the trials result and rankings for Jyotis were not comparatively as good as those of Malik.
In reviewing arguments from both Jyoti and the Sports Authority of India, the High Court of Delhi found that Jyoti’s petition was categorically incorrect in stating that she had individually earned a spot for herself, as opposed to having earned one for India’s NPC. The court also noted that they have limited ability to interfere with the NPC’s independence in this regards because doing so would bring government interference into the selection process, which it is barred from doing.
Further to this, the High Court of Delhi also found that the Sports Authority of India had the power to act as the National Paralympic Committee for India given the suspension of the Paralympic Committee of India by both International Paralympic Committee and the Union of India. In unsuspending India to allow participation of the country in Rio under their own flag, the IPC left the Sports Authority of India in charge as the National Paralympic Committee.
The court rejected Jyoti’s petition because it determined that the process for selection for the spot was fair, because Sports Authority of India is the organization responsible for conducting trials given the suspension issues, and that there was nothing perverse in the proceedings leading up to the decision.
India’s current 13 deep athletics team to the Rio Games includes Deepa Malik as the team’s only woman. Dharambir, Amit Kumar, Sandeep, Rinku, Ranbir Narender, Sundar Singh Gurjar, Devendra Jhajharia, Ram Pal, Sharad Kumar, Varun Singh Bhati and Mariyappan Thangavelu are the twelve men named to the Indian team.
At the present, Jyoti still seeks to potentially go to the Rio Games. There is one pathway left for potential inclusion. That option involves Russia losing its appeal for their suspension from the 2016 Summer Paralympics by the IPC, and then subsequently being allocated a spot via this route. This route seems unlikely as the only Russian ranked in Jyoti’s event is Mariia Bogacheva, in 16th place. She had not thrown an A qualifying score during the eligibility period. Jyoti did not have an A or B qualifying score in any other events on the Paralympic program for her class that would make her eligible. Her road to Rio almost certainly ended when the court rejected her challenge.