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Apex Court Asks Centre to Ensure Revocation of FIFA’s AIFF Suspension

The Supreme Court also directed the government to ensure that India hosts the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: The Print

The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Centre to take “proactive steps” to ensure that the suspension of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) by FIFA is lifted and the country can host the Under-17 (U-17) Women’s World Cup in October.

Suspending the AIFF with “immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties”, FIFA said on August 15 that the suspension, under which national teams and club teams cannot play international football and cannot transfer players globally, would remain in place until the federation regains full control of its daily affairs.

The apex court order followed after an appeal filed by the AIFF against the Delhi High Court’s judgement in a case filed by senior advocate Rahul Mehra seeking reconstitution of the sports body as per the National Sports Code with democratic elections.

In a press release, FIFA had said: “The Bureau of the FIFA Council has unanimously decided to suspend the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties, which constitutes a serious violation of the FIFA statutes.”

The problem started when former civil aviation minister and AIFF president and Praful Patel, who was also a FIFA council member, refused to relinquish his post on the pretext of the pandemic and a court case regarding the AIFF constitution, according to The Indian Express. Subsequently, the SC removed Patel on May 18 and appointed a Committee of Administrators (COA) to run the AIFF. According to FIFA rules, the COA is a case of third-party interference.

FIFA has called for the repeal of the COA’s mandate and handing over the charge of daily affairs back to the AIFF administration to revoke the suspension. “The suspension will be lifted once an order to set up a committee of administrators to assume the powers of the AIFF executive committee has been repealed and the AIFF administration regains full control of the AIFF’s daily affairs,” the FIFA press release read.

A Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala, according to Bar and Bench, ordered on Wednesday: “We request the Centre to take proactive measures to ensure holding of Under-17 World Cup and lift the suspension on AIFF so the objective is duly achieved”. India should “have the benefit” of hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup, the Bench further said.

The court adjourned the hearing till Monday on the request of  solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who said that some “breaking of ice” has taken place in discussions between the Centre and FIFA, LiveLaw reported.

“Yesterday itself the government took it up as an issue. We had two meetings with FIFA. We have reached a stage. I must also say that the CoA has played a very constructive role. There is some breaking of the ice which has taken place. I am requesting if this can be kept on Monday,” Mehta submitted.

Submitting that Patel “has orchestrated” the problem, said: “Some members of AIFF had stepped down and the CoA took over and these members are orchestrating all of this. It is Mr Patel, who has orchestrated this.”

Mehta requested the Court to “come down heavily on those who are interfering” and said that “this is about the pride of the country”.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the CoA, submitted that Gokulam Kerala FC has landed in Uzbekistan for the Women’s Club Championship but their fate is uncertain. Besides, ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup fixture also remains uncertain, he added and urged Mehta to write to FIFA officials regarding this.

On August 3, the SC ordered elections to for the AIFF executive committee ahead of the U-17 world cup. Subsequently, the COA moved a contempt petition alleging that Patel was liaising with FIFA to undermine the hosting of the world cup.

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