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Supreme Court orders AIFF elections by August-end, paves way for players to vote

By Press Trust of India

(PTI) The Supreme Court Wednesday directed for holding of elections expeditiously to the executive committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as per the schedule proposed by the Committee of Administrators (CoA).

It took note of the fact that from October 11, 2022, India is due to host the FIFA Under-17 Women world cup 2022.

The top court said that the Electoral College for the executive committee of AIFF would have representatives from 36 state associations and 36 representatives of eminent football players.

It said that 36 representatives of eminent football players would consist of 24 members of male football players and 12 female players, who have played at least one international football match representing India and have retired from international tournaments two years prior to the date of notification of the elections.

The top court said that the national sports code cannot be read in a manner of the statute and a holistic understanding of its provisions has to be arrived at to effectuate its intent and purpose. “In this backdrop, consistent with the need for the healthy development of the sports of football in India, the inclusion of eminent players, who actually represented the country, would be of immense benefit for ensuring the growth of the sports in a healthy and orderly manner”, it said. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said that the elections shall be conducted in a manner consistent with Article 26 of the draft constitution which deals with the eligibility of the members of the executive body.

The top court said that this will be an interim arrangement without any prejudice to the rights and contentions of the parties and clarified that it is anticipated that the interim body would presently continue for three months subject to further orders of this court so that the constitution of the AIFF can be finalised in the meantime.

“The Interim body shall not claim any equity on the basis of this order and the present arrangement would be subject to further orders”, the bench said and listed the matter for further hearing in September’s first week. It noted that on November 10, 2017, this court while constituting a Committee of Administrators (COA) observed that its remit of it would be to formulate the constitution of AIFF in consonance with the National Sports Code and the model guidelines and to ensure the constitution of the executive committee and conduct elections. It said that in May, this year, the constitution of the COA was modified and reconstituted by a former judge of this court, a former chief election commissioner, and a former captain of the Indian Football team. It noted that the COA was directed to prepare the Electoral College to conduct the elections to the executive committee in accordance with the provisions of the constitution as proposed, subject to further directions of this court.

“On July 21, 2022, this court noted that the COA has received nearly 215 comments from objectors including from state associations…The COA accepted nearly 98 per cent of the objections besides which it has an occasion to interact with the delegation of FIFA which has visited India”, the bench said. It also took into account that FIFA has indicated to the COA that the inaugural ceremony of the U-17 world cup would be carried out under the auspices of the democratically elected body of the AIFF. “From this perspective, and bearing in mind the legitimate concern of FIFA, we directed that it was necessary to expedite the elections and from that perspective the draft constitution as proposed by the COA be considered expeditiously”, it said, adding that during the hearing, it has been proposed that the elections should be conducted in a manner, which would be in consonance with the National Sports Code and the draft constitution. The bench took note of the submissions raised by senior advocate Maneka Guruswamy, on behalf of 35 state associations which would in turn represent the interest of 7000 clubs, 700 district associations, and five lakh players across the country. She objected to the representations of players in the executive committee of AIFF and stated that it cannot be allowed as per the sports code and model election guidelines and only state associations can be allowed to vote.

The bench, however, rejected the objections and said that there are at least two provisions in the sports code that enable the representations of football players in the management of the national federation.

It said that if the submissions of state associations are to be agreed upon then the people who are responsible to dribble the ball on the field and those who are responsible for the flourishing of the sports will not be allowed to take part in the management of the federation. “We cannot allow this fiefdom to continue in the sports”, the bench said and noted the submission of Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports that the National Sports Code is a dynamic document and is not restrictive in any manner. The apex court had on May 18 appointed a three-member CoA headed by former top court judge Anil R Dave to manage the affairs of the AIFF and ousted NCP leader Praful Patel-led executive committee which had overstayed its four-year term by two years.

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