NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Friday restrained Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) until July 1 from issuing a formal communication to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) regarding its decision of selecting dressage rider Anush Agarwalla to represent India at the upcoming Paris Olympics. “Considering the urgency and extremity expressed by the counsel for the petitioner, it is directed that respondent number 1 (EFI) shall not issue formal communication to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) till the next date of hearing. Renotify on Monday,” the order passed by vacation bench of justice Mini Pushkarna said.

India’s Shruti Vora. (Getty Images)

The court asked EFI to hold its hand while considering a plea filed by dressage rider Shruti Vora seeking to set aside the federation’s selection criteria for the Paris Olympics.

As per EFI’s selection guidelines released in February 2024, in case of multiple contenders meeting the criterion, “the athlete with the highest average in Grand Prix out of the best 4 events in the past one year shall be chosen to participate.” Agarwalla averaged just 0.532 points more than Vora, according to EFI. His four MERs are 67.936% (Wiesbaden, May 2024), 68.261 % (December 2023 in Mechelen), 67.152 % (December 2023 in Frankfurt), and 67.804 % (October 2023 in Wroclaw).

Vora’s plea filed before the high court on Friday painted a picture that EFIs criteria was not fair. The petition stated that the criteria suffered from inherent discrimination as it excluded all the other dressage riders from consideration, apart from Agarwalla.

“The action of the Respondent No. 1 to, somehow, make the basis of selection to the Olympic event on the basis of retrospective scores instead of present and recent performances is in itself illogical, arbitrary, irrational and in direct contravention of principles of natural justice,” the plea read.

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi representing Vora requested the court to urgently hear the matter as the EFI had to formally inform the IOA regarding its decision of selecting Agarwalla by June 30.

The matter will now be posted on Monday as per roster before the concerned judge hearing sports matters.

“Don’t send a formal letter till Monday. Let the roster bench take a call on the matter. Advise your client. They (Vohra) have raised certain points. She is making a valid point. Just hold your hands. Give me an oral assurance or I’ll pass a one-line order,” justice Pushkarna said to standing counsel Kirtiman Singh who represented the EFI.

Expressing its disinclination to accede to court’s request, Singh submitted that though the executive committee had already recommended Agarwalla’s name for Paris Olympics but had not formally communicated the name to IOA. However, he stressed the EFI was under an obligation to submit the list by June 30. The union sports ministry was represented by standing counsel Arunima Dwivedi and advocate Pinky Panwar.

Consequently, the court directed the EFI to hold its hand and also impleaded IOA as a party to the petition.