In a desperate attempt to overturn FIFA’s suspension on AIFF, the central government filed a plea in the Supreme Court on Sunday, seeking an end to the “mandate” of the Committee of Administrators (CoA), as sought by FIFA.
The sports ministry’s action, which comes a day before a vital hearing before the Supreme Court, can be interpreted as an attempt to save the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which is set to take place in October.
The world body on August 15 imposed a ban on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) due to “third party interference” and said that the women’s age-group showpiece “cannot currently be held in India as planned”.
The government in its application has virtually accepted all the demands made by FIFA, including ending the tenure of the SC-appointed CoA as well as not allowing individual members in the electoral college.
It, however, said that the ousted Praful Patel-led dispensation should be excluded from the AIFF.
“…this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to … direct that day-to-day management of AIFF shall be looked after by the AIFF administration led by the acting Secretary-General to the exclusion of the earlier elected body and the CoA will have no role in the administration of AIFF from 22.08.2022,” the application read.
“… to require the CoA to submit the final draft constitution to this Hon’ble Court by the end of 23.08.2022, and that the mandate of the COA be declared to be over in full from 23.08.2022.”
In its statement, while suspending AIFF, FIFA had said the lifting of the suspension on AIFF will be subject to repealing of CoA’s mandate in full.
FIFA also said that it wants the AIFF administration to “be fully in charge of the AIFF’s daily affairs”.
The world body had said that it wants an “independent electoral committee to be elected by the AIFF general assembly to run the elections of a new executive committee”.
It had also said that the AIFF must hold its elections based on the pre-existing membership of the AIFF” (i.e state associations only without individual members).
After the SC approved the holding of AIFF elections on August 28, the process of filing nomination papers was completed on Saturday.
Seven candidates, including the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia, have filed nomination papers for the president’s post, though the returning officer on Sunday rejected two of them after the proposer and seconder said they have not signed any nomination paper of any candidate.
One of the government’s plea, of not allowing eminent players as individual members in the electoral college, if accepted by the SC may put Bhutia’s candidature under a cloud as he has been proposed and seconded by an eminent player each.
“Because of the suggested changes in the electoral college, the process of election may be required to be started ‘de novo’ since the change in the voters’ list may affect the validity of some of the nomination forms which may have been proposed/seconded by the player members who are now prayed for being excluded from the voters’ list,” the government plea read.
The government also made a plea to modify the election programme approved by the top court in its August 3 order but said that the returning officer and his assistant, who were appointed by the CoA to conduct AIFF polls on August 28, be allowed to continue.
“… direct for election from the stage stipulated on 13.08.2022 (date of election notification) based upon the voters’ list containing representatives of member associations only which already published excluding the 36 players.
“and be pleased to direct the Returning Officers to complete all stages of the election up to the counting of votes and declaration of results with such changed dates as this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to specify.”
The government also proposed that the Executive Committee of the AIFF may consist of 23 members, including six eminent players.
“The 17 members (inclusive of the president, a treasurer, and one vice president) will be elected by the above electoral college.
“Out of the six eminent payers, four will be men and two will be women. The eminent players may be nominated (co-opted) in the EC and shall have the voting rights in Executive Committee, thus making their representation to be around 25 per cent of the EC.”
The government said the “problem facing the country is acute and it is of utmost importance that India does not lose its right to host the prestigious FIFA Under-17 Women World Cup, 2022 nor the brilliant football players of the country (irrespective of the age group) are deprived of participating in international competitions.
“An indulgence by this Hon’ble Court is the only way forward and will serve a larger interest of the nation.
“This Honble Court has the power to do complete justice and this would be one of those rarest of rare cases where this Hon’ble Court may if required, bend any procedural rules to do complete justice.”