By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Feb 14 (IANS) Complying with the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) order, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) has removed the restrictive undertaking that players had to give while registering themselves with the chess body.
However two players - Gurpreet Pal Singh and Karun Duggal - fighting for the players' rights, dismissed the AICF move as "eyewash".
The new development came to light when a Delhi-based player, Savitri Joshi, tried to re-register herself as a player. She was banned by AICF in 2010 for playing in a tournament that was not authorised by the chess body.
"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 told IANS over phone from Delhi.
Joshi said she had completed the registration process on February 10, paying the requisite fees.
"Earlier, when I had registered with the AICF in 2015 and 2018, the undertaking was there," Joshi added.
"The restrictive condition was not there when I tried to register this time."
AICF President P.R.Venketrama Raja had told IANS that a committee was looking into the CCI order and steps to be taken to comply with it.
On his part, AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan declined to confirm or deny to IANS the change in player registration conditions.
"Since the matter is in the court, I have nothing to comment on this," he told IANS.
The AICF has gone on appeal against the CCI order in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).
Reacting to the development, Duggal said: "It is an eyewash. State associations affiliated to AICF has not removed the condition. Further, the condition exists in the upcoming tournament brochures."
Duggal said that their FIDE Elo rating has not been restored.
"We should not be asked to register again as a player. It was AICF that banned us and now they have to restore our registration," Duggal said.
Singh apprehended that the AICF might bring in some additional clauses which in effect would make the players not to play in other chess tournaments.
Duggal and Singh said their status quo as unregistered players with their rating suspended continues.
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 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 and directed the chess body to deposit the penalty within 60 days and file a compliance report.
The complaint against the AICF was filed by four chess players - Singh, Duggal, Devendra Bajpai and Hemant Sharma - alleging contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Act.
The players had complained to the CCI that their Elo rating points were removed by the AICF without giving any prior notice due to their participation in the chess tournament sponsored by the Chess Association of India (CAI) in 2010 which was not authorised by the AICF.
According to the CCI order, the complainants alleged that the AICF also removed the ratings of 151 chess players on that ground.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)