The recent decision of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to approach the Supreme Court, requesting directives for the present executive committee headed by Praful Patel to continue in office till a court-approved constitution comes into effect, has raised many eyebrows. 21 in fact.
That is the number of state associations (out of 36) that have separately written to the AIFF asking that at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the federation on December 21, there should be a clear discussion on delay of the elections, and, if possible, a date should be fixed for them to be conducted.
Members of the committee will complete their four-year term on December 21 and president Patel will complete his third term, and 12 years at the helm. It will make him ineligible from occupying any post in the federation for the next four years as per the 2011 National Sports Code.
All the letters, written by state association secretaries, have arrived separately and have been written in a varied manner. But there is one thing common in them all — a reiteration that full-fledged dialogue on AIFF elections be included in the agenda of the AGM.
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For a recap, this whole saga began in 2017 when Delhi-based lawyer Rahul Mehra filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court claiming the AIFF elections held in December 2016 was flawed as the constitution of the AIFF was not in accordance with the 2011 Sports Code. The High Court removed Patel and his committee from all posts, an order, which was quickly reversed by the Supreme Court.
The Apex Court, however, formed a committee comprising former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly to formulate the constitution of the AIFF in accordance with the Sports Code, and gave them a deadline of eight weeks.
The committee failed to meet the deadline. Quraishi recently claimed he had submitted the report early this year. The court, however, has not taken it up yet. In the light of this, the AIFF, on November 21, wrote to state associations saying:
“Due to non-finalization of its constitution in terms of the order dated 10th November 2017, passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India, AIFF is not in a position to conduct the ensuing election, even though the four years term of the executive committee ends on 21st December 2020. Therefore, the Federation has approached the Honourable Supreme Court vide an application filed on 21st November, 2020 for seeking following prayers:
- Allow the Executive Committee elected on 21st December 2016 in its annual general meeting to continue to hold office till a new executive committee is formed pursuant to an Election conducted in accordance with the new Constitution and may be approved by the Honourable Court and/or
- Pass such order/orders as the honourable court may deem fit and proper in the fact and circumstances in the present case.”
This letter has certainly left a large number of state associations unhappy. Twenty one letters have arrived in less than a week and the tone and tenor of the letters is almost the same. In the east, except for the Indian Football Association (IFA, Bengal), all other associations such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh have joined hands in writing to the federation. Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Haryana have also made similar demands; so have Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Arunachal and few others.
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Speaking to Newsclick, one State association secretary (who requested anonymity) made no bones about his feelings on the whole issue.
“This is nothing but a cheap trick to stick to power even though the term is over. Otherwise, why did they go to the Supreme Court only a month before the elections? This move should have been made six months ago. They want the elections to be delayed by hook or crook.
“Secondly, who and on what basis took the decision to approach the court? Did they take the approval of the Executive Committee or the general body?” the official asked.
AIFF has its arguments ready. In conversation with PTI, a source in the federation said: “In view of the AIFF constitution not being confirmed as per sports code and keeping in mind the threat posed by the fast-evolving Covid situation, the AIFF does not have options apart from seeking an extension in the court.”
Another source in the AIFF expressed fear that in this scenario, if the term of the current committee expires and the court “appoints an ad-hoc administrator to take charges of Indian FA, there is a high chance of FIFA banning India”.
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States, which have written the letters, are not sure what their next move should be in case the AIFF dismisses their plea.
“Well, let us see what happens and what they have to say in the AGM. We are confident good sense will prevail,” another State Association Secretary said.
Interestingly, the content of the AIFF’s prayer to the Apex Court has not gone down well with Quraishi, with. Writing to the states, the AIFF had said: “The Ombudsman filed an application on 7th February 2020 with the Honourable Supreme Court, seeking enlargement of time for submission of the Draft Constitution of AIFF which is still pending adjudication before the honourable court.”
In retaliation, Quraishi said in an interview: “It is completely wrong to say that we have not finalised the draft constitution. We completed it in December 2019 and gave it to our lawyer who helped us out. He has submitted it to the Supreme Court in January 2020 in a sealed cover as directed by the SC.”
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A source in the AIFF was not ready to accept what Quraishi had to say. “He may have given his report to his lawyer to file the report. But why did he file an application seeking more time?”
Whatever the outcome of this tussle be, there are enough indications that there’s been bad blood between the state associations and the national body for quite some time. Many state associations feel they have been treated shabbily ever since Patel and his team took charge.
One particular state has gone to the extent of suggesting in his letter: “Suggest working towards amendments to AIFF constitution which allows the election from MAs of a General Secretary and the Paid General Secretary post to be renamed as a Paid CEO.”
Harsh words perhaps. But fangs have been bared.
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