‘Election fixing’ returns to haunt Praful Patel’s All India Football Federation

The Praful Patel-led AIFF Executive Committee for the 2016-2020 term was dealt a blow by the Delhi High Court on Tuesday after it declared the polls held last December invalid.

football Updated: Nov 01, 2017 19:57 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Praful Patel,AIFF,All India Football Federation
Praful Patel is the current president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).(AFP)

There doesn’t seem to be any end to Indian sports bodies’ run-ins with courts. The country’s most influential federation, BCCI, is engaged in a protracted battle and awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict.

The Delhi High Court declaring the All India Football Federation (AIFF) elections of December 2016 invalid means another federation has fallen foul of the sports code.

The biggest point of contention is the nomination process that violates the code. They seem to have been made on the basis of a pre-determined list prepared by AIFF bosses, and that has been adjudged to have rendered the election process invalid.

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A total of 17 members were elected to the executive committee, all unopposed, with Patel winning his third term as president.

On Tuesday evening, hours after the court verdict, an AIFF statement said the election was “fully compliant with all statutory regulations in terms of the Registrar of Societies Act as well as other notifications and orders of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.”

However, the nomination process under Article 25.4 of the AIFF constitution is clearly in conflict with the sports code. “A candidate for the post of President, Vice President, Treasurer or Member of the Executive Committee shall be proposed by at least five Permanent Members,” it says.

The model election guidelines as per the sports code says a member’s nomination can be proposed by one association and seconded by another.

Emails accessed by Hindustan Times show the AIFF gave state units details of the electoral college as well as the name and contact information of the Returning Officer on November 25, 26 days ahead of the election. The AIFF constitution says it should be done at least 30 days in advance (Articles 23.2 and 25.9).

READ | Delhi High Court says Praful Patel’s election as AIFF boss invalid, appoints administrator

The biggest dispute is the AIFF asking state bodies to file nomination papers for a pre-determined list of 17. On November 26, vice-president Subrata Dutta sent an email to state units, listing the names.

Later that day, he sent another mail. “There is a typographical error in the proposed Executive Committee. The name Mr. Deepak Sharma (North Zone) has been wrongly written as Deepak Singh. Please write Deepak Sharma in the nomination form for executive committee member from North Zone,” he wrote.

Eventually all but one from the list were elected unopposed. Only Assam unit secretary, Ankur Dutta, was left out with the association president, HN Brahma elected.

Goa Football Association (GFA) in a petition to the returning officer contested the election. GFA, for the first time in three decades, failed to get a representative into any post in the Executive Committee.

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Two controversial inductions were Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) president Subhash Chopra, who had been heading his state body 19 months past his term without an election, and Rajasthan unit president Manvendra Singh, who had just been elected after the Rajasthan body was de-recognised by the AIFF for nine years. He got the plum post of Vice-President (West Zone).

There are some fears the court verdict could lead to FIFA suspending AIFF for outside interference, as Pakistan remains suspended following a disputed election. But the Pakistan body was split into two factions, with both claiming election victory. And FIFA had given it two years to sort out the mess.

The AIFF will have to sort out the issue quickly to avoid erosion of the goodwill built by India staging the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 08:30 IST