Following the Ministry of Sports’ affidavit in the Supreme Court that said that NCP leader Praful Patel had no mandate to continue as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president, the top court on 18 May appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by former apex court judge AR Dave to manage the affairs of the football administrators’ body and adoption of its constitution in line with the National Sports Code and model guidelines. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and PS Narasimha said the COA will comprise two former members — Dr SY Qureshi, former Chief Election Commissioner and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian Football Team besides Justice (retd) Dave.
The apex court said the current state of affairs was not in the interest of proper governance of the federation. It directed the CoA to take charge of the AIFF forthwith and assist the court by providing inputs to the court in facilitating the adoption of the constitution by the AIFF in accordance with the National Sports Code and model guidelines.
The bench said the COA would prepare electoral rolls for the purpose of conducting elections to the executive committee of AIFF as per the constitution to be submitted by the two-member committee (ombudsman) of Qureshi and Ganguly. “The committee of administrators shall carry out day-to-day governance of the All India Football Federation”, the bench said.
The Supreme Court said that the COA would be free to take the assistance of the former committee of the federation in holding tournaments and selection of players and other affairs.
The bench said the newly constituted committee of administrators would sit in Football House at Dwarka or any other place of convenience. It clarified that this was a pro-tem arrangement meant to facilitate the holding of elections and handing over the affairs to the democratically elected body in accordance with the constitution. It said that it was anticipated that the elections would be held expeditiously.
On 12 May, the court had agreed to hear a plea of the Delhi Football Club that had complained about the illegal continuation of a committee and Patel as president of AIFF for over a decade. Advocate Prashant Bhushan had argued before the apex court that an illegal committee was continuing to head the AIFF due to the non-hearing of a petition of the football body against the 2017 decision of the Delhi High Court. “In 2017, the last election of the football federation was set aside by the Delhi High Court. When an SLP was filed in this court, this court appointed a committee headed by former election commissioner and sports secretary Qureshi to prepare a Constitution for AIFF in accordance with the sports code. Even that has been done long ago…” Bhushan had said.
Previously, the Ministry of Sports had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying that Patel had no mandate to continue as AIFF president as he had already served three terms and the national body should hold elections without further delay. The affidavit was filed against a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the AIFF, and the sports ministry. “…the term of the existing committee (of AIFF) is already over, and the existing president (Praful Patel) has completed more than 12 years as president, the petitioner (AIFF) should hold elections without further delay as per extant instructions contained under Sports Code and the instructions issued by the answering respondent (sports ministry) from time to time,” the ministry’s affidavit said.
The NCP politician — Indian sports administrative bodies are dominated by politicians rather than veteran sportspersons — had completed his three terms and 12 years as AIFF president in December 2020, the maximum permitted to a National Sports Federation (NSF) chief under the Sports Code. The AIFF, however, did not hold the elections, citing a pending petition in the Supreme Court regarding its constitution.
The AIFF had moved an application in the Supreme Court only a month before its elections were due, seeking certain clarifications on the status of its constitution, which was under scrutiny in the apex court since 2017.
In 2017, the Delhi High Court had set aside the election of Patel as AIFF president (in the 2016 AGM) on a petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, but the Supreme Court had stayed the high court decision, allowing Patel to continue in his role, while also appointing Qureshi and Ganguly as administrators and to formulate the AIFF constitution.
In February, Patel had finally agreed at the AIFF AGM in Mumbai to constitute a committee to look into the matter. The three-member committee was asked to submit its report in three months.