The Supreme Court on Monday terminated its Committee of Administrators (CoA) in a bid to overcome FIFA’s suspension of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
A Bench said it was modifying its orders while bearing in mind the “unquestioned importance” of having India host the Under 17 Women’s World Cup in October.
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“The court is passing this order to ensure that the prestige of the nation in holding the Under 17 Women’s World Cup is not affected and to enable players to participate in international events,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, heading the Bench, observed orally.
The court transferred the day to day management of the AIFF from the hands of the CoA to the federation’s administration led by its Acting Secretary General.
“The day to day management of the AIFF shall be looked after by the AIFF administration led by the Acting Secretary General exclusively, resulting in the termination of the mandate of the CoA appointed by the Supreme Court,” the order recorded.
The CoA’s lawyer, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, would however continue in the case as amicus curiae. He would help the court finalise the draft AIFF Constitution, which has already been placed on record by the CoA.
The order on Monday is meant to help the government’s efforts to revoke FIFA’s suspension of AIFF. The world body had derecognised AIFF, citing “third-party interference”. The government had urged the court to scrap its Committee of Administrators (CoA), which was assigned the job to run the AIFF and draft a Constitution for it. FIFA has made it clear that it wants an elected body, and not a court-appointed entity like CoA, to manage AIFF affairs.
The government submitted that FIFA suspension has jeopardised the conduct of the World Cup in India. The Centre said the suspension would also mar Indian football players’ chances to compete in international events.
“It would be disastrous,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, submitted.
However, Mr. Sankaranarayanan, on behalf of the CoA, conveyed that the committee has taken a principled stand that “we should not cave in”.
Former Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia, represented by advocate Raghenth Basant, said the conduct and tenor of FIFA was “absolutely shocking”.
“Least they (FIFA) could do was respect the dignity of the Indian Supreme Court,” Mr. Basant submitted.
But Justice Chandrachud said the events which have transpired in the case have not been lost on the Supreme Court. “But now, do we assert our authority at the cost of the tournament to India? Everybody wants the World Cup to be held in India,” the Bench reacted.
“Today, what are they saying – ‘go back to your old AIFF Constitution and conduct elections’. India held an Under 17 Men’s World Cup four years ago. Has Indian football improved after that? I will rather have an Indian team that will qualify in the World Cup on its own rights and win someday than sacrifice all the changes underway in order to host one tournament,” Mr. Basant argued for the former football captain.
Mr. Mehta said “India cannot be treated lightly” but as of now the tournament should be hosted in India.
The court extended the date of election to the executive committee of the AIFF by a week. The CoA had fixed it originally on August 28 with the approval of the court.
In its order, the court directed that the voters’ list for the forthcoming elections would consist of member associations of states and union territories (35+1 associations).
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It said the Returning Officers, namely Umesh Sinha and Tapas Bhattacharya, would be deemed to be appointed by the apex court for conducting the elections.
The court said the executive committee of the AIFF would comprise 23 persons.
Of this 17 members, including the president, treasurer and vice-president, shall be elected by the electoral college of 36 member associations of states and union territories.
The remaining six members of the executive committee would be drawn from eminent players. Of the six, four would be men and two women.