• Kochi, July 28 (IANS) The Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to include state athlete P.U. Chitra in the national squad for next month’s World Athletics Championship, and posted the case for further hearing on Monday.

    The court directed the Centre and the AFI to ensure that she is in the squad.

    The directive from the court came while hearing a petition after Chitra’s coach N.S. Sijin pointed out that she was eligible for inclusion and she had also qualified.

    On Thursday, the court had asked the Centre to explain why Chitra was left out of the national squad despite qualifying for next month’s World Athletics Championship.

    It also asked the central government if it had the right to intervene in such matters, and if it had, then to explain which are the relevant provisions in the rules.

    The Counsel for the Centre on Friday told the court that it did not have any authority to this effect.

    The court also pointed out that matters related to selection were not fair and directed that Chitra be included.

    Expressing happiness at the turn of events, the athlete thanked all those who had come out in her support after her name was dropped from the squad, despite qualifying for the 1,500 m.

    Though the court directive has come, it remains to be seen if she will be able to participate as there are deadlines for entries.

    Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had earlier this week written to the Centre on Chitra being excluded, on Friday said the entire state was behind her and wished her all success.

    “The intervention of the Kerala High Court is most gratifying to hear. This shows that the AFI did not do a fair job. All sports lovers had strongly condemned the exclusion of Chitra,” he said.

    Chitra had won gold in the women’s 1,500 metres event at the Asian Athletics Championships earlier this month, with a time of four minutes and 17.92 seconds.

    According to the selection criteria of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), an athlete can qualify for the World Championships either by meeting the qualification standards or by winning gold at continental events.

    By that yardstick, Chitra had qualified for the World Championships to be held in London from August 4, although her timing at the Asian meet did not match the qualifying standard of 4:07.50 minutes.

    Chitra hails from Palakkad in Kerala. Her parents are daily wage labourers who work on farmlands.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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