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New Delhi: India’s eight-month suspension from the Olympic movement looks set to continue after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Sunday rejected a demand to ban tainted officials from contesting elections.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wanted the IOA to amend its constitution so that officials facing criminal or corruption proceedings in court would be kept out of the IOA election process.

But the IOA’s general body, which met in New Delhi on Sunday, decided to bar only those who had been convicted, and not just charged.

“We have accepted all the amendments proposed by the IOC, except the chargesheet clause," senior sports official S. Reghunathan, who chaired the meeting, told reporters.

“We have modified that clause so that only those persons who have been convicted by a court for a jail term of two or more years will not be able to contest elections.

“If the jail term is for less than two years, the case will be referred to the IOA’s ethics commission."

The amendment was in keeping with Indian law, which says that those facing charges are allowed to contest parliamentary elections since they are innocent until proven guilty, Reghunathan said.

The diluted version means influential sports officials such as Suresh Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot, who are on trial for corruption linked to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, can stand for IOA elections.

The IOC suspended India from the Olympic movement in December and de-recognised the IOA after it elected Bhanot as its secretary-general.

Kalmadi, who headed the IOA for almost two decades, had opted out of the elections but ensured his protege Abhay Chautala was elected president.

Both Kalmadi and Bhanot, who are currently on bail, have denied any wrongdoing.

There was no immediate comment from the IOC on India’s latest stance.

The world governing body wanted the IOA to conduct fresh elections under the amended constitution by September, or face a longer absence from the Olympic fold.

Suspension from the IOC means India does not receive funding from the world body and its officials cannot attend Olympic events, while athletes are barred from competing in the Olympics under the national flag.

Indian sports minister Jitendra Singh, who met IOC officials at its Swiss headquarters in Lausanne in May to resolve the crisis, had backed the world body’s bid to clean up the IOA.

Meanwhile, a group of 50 people that included India’s former field hockey chief K.P.S. Gill shouted anti-IOA slogans outside the venue of the meeting.

“Those sitting inside are criminals and have no right to govern Indian sports," said sports lawyer Rahul Mehra, who was part of the demonstration under the “Clean Sports India" banner. AFP

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