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AIFF Elections : Supreme Court Says It Will Interfere If Attempts Are Made To Sabotage Hosting Of FIFA Tournament By India

Sohini Chowdhury
11 Aug 2022 8:23 AM GMT
AIFF Elections : Supreme Court Says It Will Interfere If Attempts Are Made To Sabotage Hosting Of FIFA Tournament By India
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AIFF Supreme Court

In the matter related to the elections of All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it will not hesitate from interfering if attempts are made to undermine the hosting of the 2022 FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup by India.

The Court was hearing a contempt petition filed by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) of the AIFF alleging that the ousted AIFF President Praful Patel has been trying to undermine the conduct of tournament. It may be noted that FIFA has given an ultimatum to the AIFF to elect a democratically elected governing body and the Supreme Court had last week passed directions for the holding of elections.

Additional Solicitor General Balbir Singh appearing on behalf of the Union Government assured a Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna that a meeting with FIFA is taking place on August 11 and all efforts are being made to salvage the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup that is to be hosted by India and the meetings with FIFA are an attempt at ironing out the differences. In this regard Mr. Singh beseeched the Bench to record that the Secretary of CoA as well as the Secretary of AIFF be present at the meeting. He asserted that AIFF being the regulating authority, its Secretary should be preset at the said meeting.

Senior Advocate Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing on behalf of the CoA submitted that it would be appropriate if only the two representatives as already decided by the CoA would participate in the meeting. Senior Advocate, Rahul Mehra, the original petitioner-in-person was apprehensive that the orders of the Court would be interfered with by the contemnors.

Justice Chandrachud remarked - "We can also read between the lines and we know who is actually appearing for whom in this matter."

Suspecting that there are attempts to involve entities (Praful Patel) who have been ousted by the Apex Court from AIFF and cause interference in the administration of justice, Justice Chandrachud, on behalf of the Bench expressed displeasure -

"We are holding our balance and our sense of equipoise, but we see what is happening in this matter…Should it come to it we would assert our authority without exception."

Mr. Singh assured the Bench that the ousted entities would not be participating in the meeting with FIFA sheduled on August 11.

Noting that Counsels appearing for all contesting parties thinks it is desirable that the matter be sorted out amicably, the Bench adjourned the matter.

On 03.08.2022, the Apex Court had approved timelines proposed by CoA to conduct the election of the executive committee of the AIFF. It clarified that it would be an interim arrangement and the interim body would continue for a period of three months subject to further orders of the Court. It had also approved the inclusion of football players in the electoral college for the ensuing election, which was initially opposed by the State Federations.

The contempt petition filed by CoA suggests that Mr Praful Patel has consistently abused his position as Council Member of FIFA to undermine the directions issued by the Apex Court from time to time. It further indicates that the Union Government and FIFA-AFC are being misled by the contemnors.

It appears that after directions regarding expeditious holding of the executive committee election was passed by the Apex Court on 03.08.2022, a joint letter was sent by FIFA-AFC, expressing concern that the promised timelines had been deviated from without the consent of the State Associations. CoA has responded stating that there was no deviation and that State Associations were part of the consensus decision to finalise AIFF's constitution after the elections.

Pursuant to the letter sent by FIFA-AFC, the Union Government also filed an application seeking appropriate direction from the Apex Court. While mentioning the application for urgent listing, on 10.08.2022, ASG, Sanjay Jain appearing on behalf of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs submitted that FIFA has sent a letter stating they would withdraw the hosting rights for the upcoming Under-17 Women's World Cup. It was stated that the said letter strikes at the very root of the interim order passed on 03.08.2022.

Background

The election of All India Football Federation (AIFF) was assailed by Advocate Rahul Mehra before the Delhi High Court. The election was challenged on the ground that while the National Sports Code, 2011 made it mandatory for each candidate to be nominated by one member association and seconded by another member, the AIFF had stipulated that each candidate had to be nominated by five member associations. Observing that the election was indeed held without following the National Sports Code, the High Court had called for fresh election within five months.

On 10.11.2017, by way of an interim order, the Apex Court stayed the operation of the Delhi High Court's judgment. It had also constituted the Committee of Administrators (CoA) comprising former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and former Indian football team captain Bhaskar Ganguly. The CoA was to formulate the constitution of the AIFF in consonance with the National Sports Code and ensure the constitution of the executive committee of AIFF. On 18.05.2022, the constitution of CoA was modified and the Court appointed former Supreme Court judge Justice AR Dave as the head of the COA. On 21.07.2022, the Court noted that the Women's World Cup was due to commence in India and in that regard FIFA has indicated to the CoA that the inaugural of the under 17 tournament should be carried out under the auspices of a democratically elected AIFF. Considering the same directions were issued by the Apex Court to expedite the election process. CoA was directed to provide a draft proposal in order to facilitate holding of elections. On 28.07.2022, all the parties concerned had beseeched the Court to give specific direction for holding of election. Thereafter, on 03.08.2022, the Court issued directions for expeditious holding of the executive committee elections.

[Case Name: All India Football Federation v. Rahul Mehra And Ors.]

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