NHRC takes suo motu cognizance of media reports alleging exploitation of a top Indian woman cyclist by the chief coach during training in Slovenia

NHRC takes suo motu cognizance of media reports alleging exploitation of a top Indian woman cyclist by the chief coach during training in Slovenia

New Delhi, 10th June, 2022

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken a suo motu cognizance of a media report that a top Indian woman cyclist has accused the national sprint team chief coach of inappropriate behaviour during a camp in Slovenia and has sent an email complaint to the Sports Authority of India, SAI, in this regard. Reportedly, as per SAI, the complainant was immediately brought back to India mid way her training to ensure her safety. The SAI has prima facie found the allegation as true.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, amount to human rights violation of the victim sportsperson. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Director General, Sports Authority of India, calling for a detailed report in the matter. It should include the status of physical as well as mental health of the victim as well as action, if any, taken against the responsible officer including the coach concerned, within 4 weeks. The Commission would also like to know whether any specialized counseling has been provided to her by the authorities.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has further observed that the Government of India has been sincerely focusing on optimum participation of women in every field including the sports, art and culture activities etc. There have been various guidelines issued to ensure safety and security of the female sports women during their training and sports activities.

It is strange to know that instead of reining in the coach, the Sports Authority of India reportedly chose to bring the victim back to India thereby depriving her of training overseas for which she had been selected. The Right to Dignity of the victim has purported to have been violated, considering the fact coach and sportsperson is having fiduciary relation, where coach is reposed with the trust to look after the well being and welfare of the sportswoman.

The Commission is also of the opinion that if the allegations mentioned in the news report are true and no action is taken by the authorities with regard to such incidents, other female sports persons will not only feel unsafe but will be reluctant to complain against perpetrators in future for fear that they may also be called back mid way during their training. The subject also falls under ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at work place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, which categorically defines in its Section 2(o)(iv) that work place includes any sport institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto. The SAI is, therefore, also under obligation to get the matter probed as per provisions of the Act.

According to the media reports, carried three days on 7th, 8th and 9th June, 2022, the woman victim was part of the Indian team that was in Slovenia to prepare for the Asian Championship, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 18-22 June, 22. Allegedly, the coach forcefully tried pulling her towards him and asked her to come and sleep with him and threatened to destroy her career, if not conceded to his demands. The coach and the rest of the Indian Victims are expected to return to India on 14th June, 2022.

Reportedly, when the victim could not tolerate the advances and explicit sexual overtones made by the coach, she spoke to the CEO of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS, who booked her return ticket for 03rd June,2022. The victim has mentioned in her complaint that the coach has destroyed her mentally and emotionally, which is now impacting her sporting performance. She has reportedly sought strictest possible action against the coach and not only to ensure her safety but also the safety of all others, especially the female athletes.