2 May 2023 7:36 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday appointed its former judge Justice L. Nageswara Rao to take over the process of considering the draft Constitution of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) along with all suggestions, comments, and objections made by the stakeholders to the said Constitution. A bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala directed for a comprehensive report on...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday appointed its former judge Justice L. Nageswara Rao to take over the process of considering the draft Constitution of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) along with all suggestions, comments, and objections made by the stakeholders to the said Constitution. A bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala directed for a comprehensive report on the consideration of the draft Constitution to be carried out by 15th July 2023.
These proceedings can be traced back to the 2017 order of the Delhi High Court through which it had set aside the election of the office-bearers of the AIFF. The direction was passed in a petition filed by sports activist Advocate Rahul Mehra, who had contended that the elections for office bearers violated the National Sports Code. Following this, the Supreme Court constituted a three- member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to facilitate the holding of elections and handing over the affairs to democratically elected body. Afterwards, the Constitution created by the CoA was circulated to all stake holders for comments, objections, and suggestions.
The primary issue before the Apex Court today was to approve the AIFF constitution as finalised by the CoA. The amicus curiae in the matter, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, submitted a tabulated chart before the bench consisting of provisions of the draft Constitution, name of the stakeholders who had objected, commented, or suggested anything, and the nature of the objections thus made. Suggestions were made by diverse stakeholders such as the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), IOA, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, State Associations, petitioner Rahul Mehra, and the AIFF. Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), a private entity also submitted its comments on specific portion of the Constitution concerning the role of private franchises in conducting football.
Noting that the issues that arose in finalising the Constitution did not only pertain to law but also sports policy, CJI DY Chandrachud orally remarked–
"There is one part of our mind which says let us finish this here but when we hear this, we see very little law and more on sports policy and that is why courts face flak for these issues- are we equipped to deal with all this? Should we not have a seasoned expert apply his mind to the case?"
Accordingly, the court noted that it would be more appropriate for the matter to be considered by Justice L. Nageswara Rao who was also in charge of amending the Constitution of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
While certain suggestions made were accepted, Senior Advocate Sankaranarayanan suggested that those objections which are in the breach of any judgement of the court or the National Sports Code should not be accepted. He also highlighted that the role of athletes, who form backbone of the sport, should also be protected. He further argued that it was necessary that the independence of the AIFF was preserved without undue interference from outside. He also urged that it was necessary for the Constitution to comply with the statutes of FIFA and the Olympic Charter.
CJI DY Chandrachud, dictating the order, said–
"Ordinarily, we would have considered the draft constitution. However, we are of the view that it would be appropriate to defer the above exercise as many objections addressed by stakeholders are not just on the issue of law but also on the issue of policy, including proper modalities of running the sport of football in the country."
The court also remarked that a similar exercise was being carried out in relation to the IOA and there existed certain overlap in the present case with the case of IOA Constitution. Thus, it was found appropriate to entrust the task of finalising AIFF Constitution by Justice Nageswara Rao. The court added–
"We request Justice Nageswara Rao to take up the task of considering the draft constitution as proposed by the Administrators. In preparing and finalising his report, Justice Nageswara Rao is requested to hear all the stakeholders. The exercise of considering the draft constitution and submitting a comprehensive report be carried out by 31st July 2023. In the event it becomes necessary to seek procedural directions, Justice Nageswara Rao may do so by submitting a request which may be rooted by amicus before this court."
The court also stated that the fees and expenses payable to Justice Nageswara Rao shall be borne by the AIFF and directed the AIFF to make an initial deposit of Rs 25 Lakh to Justice Rao.
Adding a clarification, Supreme Court remarked–
"The pendency of these proceedings would not operate as a stay for hearing before High Courts for any other sports body."
Case Title: All India Football Federation v. Rahul Mehra And Ors. SLP(C) No. 30748-30749/2017