Thursday date for AIFF hearing; CoA files contempt plea against Patel

Published on Aug 10, 2022 10:28 PM IST

The committee of administrators (CoA) said that in his capacity as FIFA Council member, Patel is “consistently abusing” his position to undermine the Supreme Court order on August 3 that introduced eminent players in the administration of AIFF.

AIFF president Praful Patel(AIFF Twitter)
AIFF president Praful Patel(AIFF Twitter)
ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi

The committee of administrators (CoA) of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday alleging contempt against Praful Patel and representatives of seven member associations. Patel is a former AIFF president and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader.

The committee of administrators (CoA) said that in his capacity as FIFA Council member, Patel is “consistently abusing” his position to undermine the Supreme Court order on August 3 that introduced eminent players in the administration of AIFF.

A bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna agreed to hear the matter on Thursday after the petition was mentioned for urgent listing by senior advocate Gopal Shankarnaraynan appearing for the CoA.

Along with the contempt petition, the court will also hear an application moved on Monday by the Centre for modification of the August 3 order. The Centre cited letters received by certain state associations and a joint-letter from FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on August 5 to suggest that the August 3 order was not in line with FIFA Statutes. That could get AIFF being suspended and the hosting rights of women’s under-17 World Cup revoked. The U17 World Cup is scheduled in India from October 11-31.

“We will list these matters tomorrow. But the way forward has to be dialogue,” the bench said.

Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court about the letter on August 5 by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura and Windsor John, the AFC general secretary. In its application, the Centre urged the court to allow the executive committee to be elected only by members of AIFF.

“It is up to you (Centre) to engage with FIFA to ensure the needful is done and tournament is held,” the court told Jain.

In its contempt petition, CoA referred to Samoura and John’s letter and said: “It is clear that the government has been misled by the State Associations, as have FIFA-AFC who are ignorant of the duplicitous role being played by contemnor 1 (Patel).”

CoA has sought Patel be barred from participating in or holding any football-related posts, including in FIFA and AFC. “The evidence enclosed with this contempt petition would show that Praful Patel who had been removed as President of the AIFF has consistently abused his position as Council Member of FIFA to orchestrate a campaign among the State Associations to undermine the various steps taken by this Court for the betterment of football, including having footballers involved in governance and administration,” CoA said.

The contempt plea has also been directed against representatives of seven state associations. According to CoA, the seven, authorised by states to represent them during the drafting of the constitution by CoA, were doing Patel’s bidding. Patel had met state association representatives on August 6.

“…They (representatives of seven states) have been instrumental and complicit with Praful Patel in presenting a completely different picture to the FIFA and AFC….The conduct of the contemnors is liable to be dealt with heavily at the hands of this Court in the interest of justice,” CoA said.

These state associations had consented to the August 3 order through sworn affidavits before the court but later approached the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports with the FIFA-AFC letter to create a fear India being suspended, CoA has said.

The CoA said it was not consulted on this issue either by state associations or Centre, although it had addressed the concerns expressed by FIFA-AFC on August 6. In its letter to FIFA-AFC, CoA said that the court’s order was as per roadmap agreed during the FIFA-AFC delegation’s visit to New Delhi in June.

The CoA said that this is not the first time Patel has tried to interfere with the steps taken by court. After the court ordered the CoA to take charge of AIFF, Patel wrote to FIFA on May 23 that this was sufficient to suspend India due to “undue third party influence.”

“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 CoA said.

On August 3, the court, as an interim arrangement, directed that AIFF’s general body would comprise 36 state associations and 36 eminent former footballers. The general body would, in accordance with the National Sports Code, elect the executive committee by August 29. This arrangement was meant to be for three months as by then, the court expected CoA to finalise AIFF’s constitution in line with the sports code and FIFA Statutes.

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