Turmoil in the Indian chess community continues

by ChessBase
4/17/2005 – India is one of the emerging chess superpowers (the other is China). With so many exciting talents in the country it is unfortunate that the national federation is in turmoil. The president and his team were recently restrained by an Indian court, rival officers received recognition by FIDE. Now the original federation is fighting back.

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The original federation fights back

The links at the bottom of this page will lead to the news stories we have published so far. In addition we recently carried a series of general new items, one of which was a link to an Express News Line story entitled "Chess row resolved, says Indian federation official". The gist, which also was given by media outlets like New Kerala, Express India, Times of India, the Hindu and others, was that a top official of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) had stated that the long running feud in Indian chess over alleged bungling of funds had been resolved with the intervention of FIDE, which had recogned the AICF headed by President N. Srinivasan and Secretary D.V.Sundar.

Soon after that we received a message from V.K. Rathi, Vice President, All India Chess Federation reprimanding us for publishing this link. Rathi wrote to us saying the news item was "completely wrong. The matter is in the High court of Madras. FIDE has not approved the rival faction in AICF as claimed in the report." He advised us to visit the All India Chess Federation web site for full details, and also informed us that "any news item influencing a matter in the court will attract contempt of court provisions under the national law." Finally we were asked to withdraw the erroneous news item and publish the correct version of the case in our website immediately.

We visited the site and found only the following statement: "The Division Bench comprising Mr. Justice P Sathasivam and Mr. Justice S K Krishnan of the hon’ble High Court of Madras has by its order dated 6th April, 2005 stayed all further proceedings in the case pending in the court against Mr. P T Ummer Koya, Hon Secretary, AICF. Earlier the Single Bench of the Court on a petition filed by Manual Aaron and two others had restrained Mr. Koya from interfering in the affairs of the Federation. The hon’ble Division has also directed the petitioners to show cause before the 24th of this month why their petition should not be dismissed."

There is also a very passionate appeal on the site for Indian chess players to "stand united to defeat the evil designs of the enemies of chess". It praises the restrained president of the AICF, Umma Koya, and assures the chess community that the federation "will tide over these temporary hitch-ups and will ultimately come out with flying colours."

We asked V.K. Rathi to clarify what exactly was wrong with our original report: had the Indian federation official not made the statement attributed to him by Indian newspapers? And we were of course interested to know what contempt of court provisions could be attracted by our news report. Would the Indian courts go after the national newspapers that published the story, or just international news outlets that linked to these stories? We received the following reply with a request for publication on our pages.

The All India Chess Federation would like to give below the correct state of affairs at the moment.

Contrary to the claims being made by a rival group, FIDE has not decided to replace the established leadership of the All India Chess Federation, but actually resolved to take a neutral stand in the matter. Along with a misleading press release issued on April 4, Mr. D.V. Sundar distributed copies of a letter written by FIDE’s continental President for Asia, Khalifa Mohamad Al-Hitmi, illegally endorsing the rival group of Mr. Sundar.

The AICF took Al Hitmi to task and filed a complaint to the FIDE President and to the FIDE Ethics Commission for violating the FIDE Code of Ethics. Article 1.2 of the FIDE Statutes states that FIDE would keep strict neutrality in matters of internal disputes in National Chess Federations. Ethics Commission Chairman William Kelleher stated in the Calvia Congress 2004 that “…we have considered this neutrality clause to be the overriding principle.” More over the FIDE Presidential Board Meeting 26-27 February in Tbilisi, Georgia discussed the conflict in Indian chess and sent the following Board resolution on March 2nd:

Dear Sir,

We write to inform you herewith that the FIDE Presidential Board at its meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, 26-27 February 2005, has resolved as follows:

  1. The tournament and applications shall be accepted from India on the sole condition that the relevant fees are paid to FIDE in advance.
  2. Continental President Mr. Khalifa Al Hitmi shall be responsible for the Indian representation in the official FIDE events, including youth events.
  3. India is hereby requested to clarify the international situation by the FIDE Executive Board meeting in August 2005 and report to FIDE.
  4. In case there are official FIDE, including continental, events which have already been awarded to India for 2005 and 2006, FIDE shall allow its organization to take place in India on condition that both parties agree with each other and inform FIDE that they are ready to organize these events together. In case of a conflict, the event shall be removed from India’s organization. The list of events is attached.

Please acknowledge the receipt
Yours sincerely,
Georgios Makropoulos, Deputy President

Based on this communication Mr. Al Hitmi illegitimately claimed that he had been tasked by the FIDE Presidential Board to investigate and submit recommendations to FIDE. Strangely though, one FIDE Dignitary, Mr. Morten Sand echoed this view for reasons best known to him. The board resolution only gave him authority over which players shall represent India in FIDE events. The FIDE Presidential Board remained neutral, accepted reports and applications from both groups, gave both groups the option to cooperate in organization of FIDE events and gave India time until August 2005 to clarify the situation to the FIDE Executive Board.

Mr. Al Hitmi was absent from the Presidential Board meeting. This is a political issue inside India, not a political issue within FIDE

You can see from the above that the news item which you have published in your website is not the correct version of the case . The matter is now under the active consideration of the Honorable Division Bench of the Madras High Court and the Judgement is expected soon.

The controversial letter issued by the Continental President Mr. Khalifa Al Hitmi is against the categorical stand taken by FIDE in the matter and is therefore null and void. Moreover any action by any party in a pending legal matter before the Court will be viewed as sub judice and is therefore prohibitive attracting legal complications. By our earlier mail what we had meant that no publication or person is has the right to do anything that would influence a case pending in the court. We have not initiated any legal action against the source of the said news item. But would be forced to do it, if the situation warrants.

V.K. Rathi
Vice President All India Chess Federation

For those of you interested in Indian chess politics – and with this emerging chess superpower one might be well advised to take heed – there are some new twists to the story. In spite of the warning reiterated in the final paragraph of Mr Rathi's communication we present the following links.

The new office bearers of the rival chess federation have their own web site where extensive documentation on the case is presented. The site has a picture of FIDE Continental president for Asia Khalifa Mohamad AL-Hitmi handing over the formal letter of recognition to D.V.Sundar, Honorary Secretary of the AICF, in Doha on March 30 2005.

The letter states: "I have come to the conclusion that there is only one federation known as All India Chess Federation and that is headed by Mr N.Srinivasan as President and Mr D.V.Sundar as Honorary Secretary. In future all matters concerning Indian chess should be dealt with Mr D.V.Sundar, the Honorary Secretary of the All India Chess Federation." [Full article plus a copy of the letter itself].

The original web site of the All Indian Chess Federation under Ummer Koya has just posted a report stating that the High Court of Madras has on the 16th of April 2005 suspended until 20th April 2005 the original order restraining Ummer Koya and his team from interfering in the day to day administration and activities of the All India Chess Federation. "With the suspension of the interim stay against the newly elected office bearers, Shri S.L. Harsh, Shri P.K. Bhaskaran and Mr. V.R. Bobba are back in office as President, Secretary and Treasurer of the AICF respectively."

Pictures of the three office bearers are included in this ChessIndia report. Interestingly if you click on the "Contact" button on the top right of the site's home page you are taken to the official FIDE federations page which gives the rival chess federation's address and lists the office bearers as N. Srivinasan (President) and D.V.Sundar (Honorary Secretary).


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