Toning down its conditions, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) has now said players seeking re-registration need not pay 50 per cent of the prize money they had earned playing in unrecognised tournaments.
According to AICF, at the meeting of its central council held on March 23, it was decided that those players who are interested in re-registration should tender a written apology and give an undertaking that they will henceforth abide by the existing bye-laws/rules. The Indian chess body had recently said that its primary focus is not punishment but enforcing discipline and talent promotion.
The AICF has kept in abeyance its rule that players should not participate in unrecognised tournaments and it is not being implemented.
However, Gurpreet Pal Singh, one of the players banned by the AICF, told IANS on Saturday: "The Competition Commission of India (CCI) last year held that the undertaking prescribed by AICF for players' non-participation in events not authorised by the Indian chess body contravenes the provisions of the Competition Act."
According to him, any condition that contravenes any law in the country is void ab-initio. Singh said earlier AICF had said players seeking re-registration have to deposit 50 per cent of the prize money earned playing in un-recognised tournaments in the 'Disabled Chess Players Fund'.
He added that the AICF had banned him and three other players in 2010 while the rule asking for an undertaking by players on not playing in unrecognised tournaments was introduced in 2011.
"The AICF should restore our global chess ratings (ELO ratings) and register us again. I cannot give an apology letter as it would result in forfeiting my rights against AICF for compensation for the loss of my chess career," Singh said.
On July 12, 2018, the CCI held that the undertaking prescribed by the AICF for players regarding non-participation in events not authorised by it amounts to restraints that are in the nature of exclusive distribution and refusal to deal as defined in Section 3(f) and 3(4)(d) of the Competition Act 2002.
The CCI also imposed a penalty of Rs 6,92,350 on the AICF for infringing on the provisions of Section 4 of the Act. The CCI said that non-compliance with such an undertaking will result in banning of players and removal of their Elo rating, create entry barriers, foreclose competition and restrict opportunities available to chess players.
"The said restrictions are likely to have appreciable adverse effect on competition in terms of factors contained in Section 19 (3) of the Act. The Commission is, thus, of the view that AICF has contravened Sections 3(4)(c) and 3(4)(d) of the Act read with Section 3(1) of the Act," the CCI order said.
The CCI order had also directed the AICF to establish the prejudice caused by a chess player before taking any disciplinary action against him and the disciplinary actions taken shall be proportional, fair and transparent.
The disciplinary actions against the four players and other similar players shall be reviewed by the AICF on these lines, the CCI had ordered.
The complaint against the AICF was filed by four chess players Hemant Sharma, Devendra Bajpai, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Karun Duggal alleging contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act.
The players were banned by the AICF from playing in chess tournaments for the past several years and their ELO ratings were also withdrawn. One of the four players who had originally complained to the CCI -- Hemant Sharma -- was re-registered with the AICF in 2016.
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