‘Men come & go but status quo continues for players in AICF’

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, Dec 19: Office bearers may come and officer bearers may go for the All India Chess Federation (AICF), but the pathetic condition of the chess players and tournament organisers at the grassroots will continue as it is forever, said chess players.

The office bearer’s election for AICF is slated next year. In the normal scheme of things, the polls should be held by March 1, 2024.

Even after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in 2018 had ruled against AICF banning chess players — irrespective of their age — for playing in private tournaments, the practice still continues particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Organisers of chess tournaments are also put to immense difficulty by vested interests that contact even the payment gateways and urge them to stop accepting the entry fee saying that the event is an unauthorised one.

“Recently we organised a chess tournament. After accepting the entry fees online, the payment gateway abruptly stopped it saying that it has been receiving several phone calls saying that our tournament was not authorised and the future business of the payment gateway would be affected from the chess field would be affected,” retired army official J.Jeevan Kumar, Secretary, Evans Chess Club told BILKULONLINE over phone from Nagercoil.

According to him, such an incident has happened to him earlier as well.

Similarly banning of players for playing in tournaments not recognised by AICF also continues with gay abandon in Tamil Nadu and with the state and the national bodies turning a blind eye.

In April this year, three players — M.Karunakaran (68), V.Palanikumar (58), and Merryston David Scanny (48) — were not allowed to play in the Tirunelveli District Selection tournament at the last moment.

Scanny said that the Tirunelveli District Chess Development Association Secretary B.Paulkumar did not allow them to play as they had played in a private tournament in Tenkasi district earlier.

In 2019, Paulkumar had barred then 11-year-old Karthik Rahul from playing in a tournament midway on the grounds that he had played in a private tournament.

The act was in clear violation of the CCI orders and AICF rules.

In a case filed by chess players against the AICF, the CCI had clearly said chess body cannot restrict tournament organisers and players from organising/playing in unauthorised chess tournaments.

The CCI had also levied a penalty of Rs 6.92 lakh on AICF.

The AICF went on appeal against the CCI’s 2018 order at the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

In July this year, the NCLAT had dismissed the appeal saying: “It appears that the Appellant is not interested to pursue the appeal. The appeal stands dismissed due to non- prosecution.”

As per the NCLAT order, the AICF has been seeking adjournments several times.

“The AICF does not want a closure, but wants to keep it alive,” Gurpreet Pal Singh, one of the chess players who had filed the case in CCI against the AICF.

He said the legal fees are paid out of player’s money with AICF and it is not known who in AICF is interested in continued payment of huge legal fees without bringing the issue to a closure.

The AICF has spent more than half a crore rupees as legal expenses in FY22 out of player’s funds.

According to the AICF’s annual accounts, it had spent Rs 50,52,450 in FY22 as legal expenses up from Rs 18,20,300 spent in FY21. In FY20, the Indian chess body had spent Rs 20,60,050 as legal expenses.

Curiously, when asked for the break-up of legal expenses incurred by it under the Right to Information Act, the AICF had said the records had been damaged/destroyed by pests.

This information is gleaned from the recent order of Central Information Commission (CIC) on an appeal filed by Singh.

The AICF had earlier told the Competition Commission that its records were destroyed by the Chennai floods in 2015, Singh had told IANS earlier.

In 2019, Singh had sought from the AICF, with bifurcation as to the lawyer fees, travel expenditure, counselling fee and others for the period January 1, 2010 to April 31, 2019, its year wise expenditure in a case filed by it against the CCI order before the Madras High Court, and the year wise expenditure incurred on defending case no 79/2011, Hemant Sharma vs AICF, before the CCI in Delhi.

Singh said the AICF would have spent several times over and above the fine of Rs 6.92 lakh levied by the CCI. For arguing the case in the CCI, the AICF lawyers came from Chennai.

Meanwhile, it is not known whether the AICF had paid the CCI the Rs 6.92 lakh penalty after NCLAT had dismissed its appeal in July this year.