Opining that the "National Sports Code, 2011 cannot be read in the manner of a statute", the Supreme Court passed a direction to include the representation of 36 football players (24 male and 12 female) in the electoral college for the ensuing executive committee election of All India Football Federation.
"The National Sports Code cannot be read in the manner of a statute. A holistic understanding of its provisions has to be arrived at in order to effectuate both its intent and purpose", a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala observed.
The bench made these observations while responding to the argument that as per the National Sports Code, only State Federations are entitled to vote in the management of AIFF.
Senior Advocate, Dr. Menaka Guruswamy appearing on behalf of 35 State Associations argued that as per the National Sports Code, only State federations are entitled to vote in the elections of the Executive Committee. She added that the sports person can vote only in the management of the AIFF. Therefore, it was urged that if the sports persons are permitted to vote in the ensuing elections it would be inconsistent with the National Sports Code.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Union Ministry of Sports, submitted that that the National Sports Code is an enabling document and cannot be read as a restrictive document and supported the inclusion of 36 players in the electoral college.
A Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and J.B. Pardiwala read the provisions of the National Sports Code in a holistic manner to grant approval to the proposal of the Committee of Administrators, entrusted with the constitution of the executive committee of the All India Football Federation, to include representation of 36 football players (24 male and 12 female) in the electoral college for the ensuing executive committee election of AIFF.
"…consistent with the need for the healthy development of the sport of football in India, the inclusion of eminent players who have represented the country would be of immense benefit. The administration of the affairs of football will benefit from the experience, knowledge and concerns of the players themselves. They are vital stakeholders. Apart from the above analyses, we have also taken note of the fact that the model statutes which are being notified by FIFA do also contemplate due representation to sports players."
Analysis by the Supreme Court
The Court referred to the relevant provision of the Sports Code, namely, Clauses 9.3(12), 3.9, 3.10, 3.20 of the Model Election Guidelines. It noted that Clause 9.3 envisages the inclusion of sports persons (say 25%) with voting rights in the management of national sports federations. The Court further observed that though Clauses 3.9 and 3.10 entitled only the State Federations to vote in the General Body meetings, the said clauses have to be read with Clause 3.20, which contemplates inclusion of prominent sports persons as members of sports federations on a tenured basis. Clause 3.20 reads as under -
"3.20 Inclusion of prominent sports persons of outstanding merit as members of the respective sports federations on a tenure basis. The strength of such prominent sports persons with voting rights should be a certain minimum percentage (say 25%) of the total members representing the federation and selection of such sports persons should be in consultation with this Department."
The Court was of the view that the "say 25%" in Clause 3.20 suggests that 25% is only an indicative figure and the extent of the voting rights could be decided upon deliberation with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. It opined that the National Sports Code cannot be read strictly, like a statute.
Case Name: All India Football Federation v. Rahul Mehra And Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 661
Case No. and Date: SLP (C) No. 30748 of 2017 | 6 Aug 2022
Coram: Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and J.B. Pardiwala