The All India Chess Federation (AICF) might claim to have removed the restrictive undertaking that players had to give in line with the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) order but the new norms are not in force, said a female chess player.
"The AICF has removed the restrictive condition in the player registration form that she will not play in any unauthorised tournaments. But AICF is yet to give its approval for my registration till now. It seems AICF is yet to mend its ways," a Delhi-based chess player, Savitri Joshi, told IANS over phone on Thursday.
On February 10, Joshi tried to register herself again as a player on AICF website paying requisite fees.
"It was a 'wow' moment for me when I tried to register again as a chess player. The undertaking that I had to sign that I will not play in any unauthorised tournament or championship was not there in the player registration form," Joshi had earlier told IANS.
"Earlier, when I had registered with the AICF in 2015 and 2018, the undertaking was there," Joshi added.
She was banned by AICF in 2010 for playing in a tournament that was not authorised by the chess body.
It has been several days since February 10 when Joshi had applied for registration. The AICF is yet to accept or deny her registration, Joshi said.
"Soon after I had completed the registration process, I got an email from AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan stating that I will receive SMS/confirmation mail once my registration is approved by the chess body. The AICF had said that I would get the approval by email and SMS within three working days," Joshi said.
"The AICF is not responding to my mails now," Joshi added.
The complaint against the AICF was filed by four chess players viz., Hemant Sharma, Devendra Bajpai, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Karun Duggal alleging contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act.
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 said the non-compliance of such 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 also imposed a penalty of Rs 692,350 on the AICF for infringing on the provisions of Section 4 of the Act.
The CCI order had also directed 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 players were banned by AICF from playing in chess tournaments for the past several years and their Elo ratings were also withdrawn.
"The AICF had appointed a committee to study the CCI order and recommend measures. In its compliance report filed with CCI, the AICF said its committee decided that the three players should give an unconditional apology for contravening the rules; deposit 50 per cent of the prize money earned in the 'Disabled Chess Players Fund' and censure on two counts," Duggal told IANS.
"The AICF has taken a stand that we had contravened the rules that were in force as the CCI has not struck down the rules as void ab-initio and also our punishment," Duggal said.
One of the four players who had originally complained to CCI - Hemant Sharma - was re-registered with AICF in 2016.
The AICF officials declined to comment as the matter is subjudice.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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