As Centre meets FIFA over AIFF concerns, SC defers hearing for a week

Published on Aug 11, 2022 01:31 PM IST

The Court was considering an application filed by Centre seeking modification of the top court’s August 3 order to elect an Executive Committee of AIFF by August 29

 (File image)
(File image)
ByAbraham Thomas

The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to await the outcome of the meeting called by Centre with officials of FIFA, and committee of administrators (CoA) manning the All India Football Federation (AIFF) before taking a call on an application by Centre seeking modification of the Court’s August 3 order introducing players in the management structure of AIFF.

With the meeting scheduled for Thursday evening, the bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna said, “A meeting was held by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports with FIFA on Wednesday. In continuation of that, a further meeting is to be held between FIFA, the Ministry of Sports and CoA. In this view of the matter, all parties submit that it is desirable if the matter is settled amicably.” The Court posted the matter for hearing on August 17.

Also Read: Roadmap followed, CoA tells FIFA and AFC

The Court was considering an application filed by Centre seeking modification of the top court’s August 3 order by which 36 state federation members and 36 players were to elect an Executive Committee of AIFF by August 29. At the same time, the CoA too moved a contempt petition that the Government was misled by state associations and accused the former AIFF President and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel of misusing his position as FIFA Council Member to undermine the orders passed by the Court.

The top court’s order had held that the democratically elected body will remain in place for three months till the CoA finalised the AIFF Constitution as per the National Sports Code. The Centre cited a letter written by FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on August 5 suggesting that the SC order was contrary to FIFA Statutes and violated the roadmap agreed between FIFA and AIFF. For this reason, the international football body threatened to suspend India’s hosting rights for the Women’s Under-17 World Cup scheduled for October this year.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) Balbir Singh appearing for Centre, said, “There is a meeting with FIFA officials today and the purpose is only to salvage the World Cup. We can iron out the differences with state associations.”

The bench said, “We can read between the lines and see who is appearing for whom.” The bench was conscious of the contempt petition filed by CoA where the three-member committee of former SC judge, Justice (Retd) Anil R Dave, former chief election commissioner SY Qureshi and former captain of Indian football team Bhaskar Ganguly informed the Court about how the state associations which agreed before the Court on August 3 later went to the Ministry with FIFA’s letter to seek modifications. The Centre even requested to have the existing members of AIFF to elect the Executive Committee in order to avoid bringing the eminent former Indian football players within the AIFF structure.

The bench told Centre, “We are holding a balance but we quite see what is happening in this matter. Let the World Cup happen. Should it come to it, we will not hesitate to assert ourselves.”

The CoA was represented in the hearing by senior advocate Gopal Shankarnaraynan who mentioned the contempt petition for urgent listing on Wednesday. The CoA was surprised that it was not consulted by the Centre before filing the application. The CoA had responded to concerns expressed by FIFA-AFC on August 6 assuring that the SC order was in line with the proposed roadmap of finalizing Constitution and holding elections before September 15.

However, the CoA was upset over a meeting called on Saturday by FIFA Council member Praful Patel with state football associations. Alleging contempt against Patel, the CoA said, “The primary cause for the present contempt petition, is the continuing central role of Praful Patel, ex-President of AIFF, who has impliedly admitted to having arranged for the letter from FIFA-AFC, and has conducted a meeting of the 35 Intervening Member Associations on August 6 with the express purpose of interfering with the proceedings of this Court.” The plea also named seven state football associations as alleged contemnors for doing the bidding of Patel.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, who first brought the illegal running of AIFF to the notice of the Delhi hig court leading to formation of CoA by the top court in 2017, submitted that it was the state associations and AIFF’s erstwhile office bearers having problem with SC orders and not FIFA. He said that while ordering reforms in BCCI, the Supreme Court faced similar resistance and a contempt petition was also brought to implement the SC orders. However, the bench decided to await Thursday’s meeting to decide the next course of action.

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