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Supreme Court Boot Lands On Praful Patel, Defiant AIFF Asked To Conduct Elections

The All India Football Federation has been delaying elections which were due in 2020 thus enabling Praful Patel to continue as president.

Supreme Court Boot Lands On Praful Patel, Defiant AIFF Asked To Conduct Elections
The Supreme Court has directed that AIFF elections be held before July 31. File Photo

Finally, All India Football Federation will have to hold elections. The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday appointed former retired judge Anil R. Dave to look after the affairs of the AIFF and pave the path for elections which are overdue since November-December 2020. (More Football News)

The Supreme Court has directed that elections be held within July 31 after the new draft AIFF constitution has been circulated among members and their opinion taken.

A three-man bench consisting of Justice D.Y. Chardrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice PS Narsimha appointed a Committee Of Administrators headed by Justice Dave to take control of AIFF with immediate effect. Justice Dave will be assisted by former Election Commissioner of India SY Quraishi and former international footballer Bhaskar Ganguly.  

This effectively means Praful Patel, who was overstaying as AIFF boss despite completing three four-year terms, will now have to bid goodbye. Patel and his executive committee have been running the AIFF and making major policy decisions by violating the National Sports Code.

In April this year, the Union sports ministry, that had been dragging its feet on the AIFF elections, told the Supreme Court through an affidavit that Patel was no longer eligible to continue as president. It was a massive boost to the anti-Patel lobby.

Reportedly, the AIFF is 'blacklisted' by the Sports Authority of India and does not get funds like other national sports federations who follow the Sports Code. 

Wednesday's decision by the Supreme Court is a massive slap on the AIFF office-bearers who have been hoodwinking its members for so long.

Signs of Dissent 

The first signs of a rebellion were seen during the AIFF AGM in Mumbai on February 5. Several members wanted elections and Patel was clearly caught off guard.

AIFF meetings are usually cosy affairs. Most affiliated members are happy to attend meetings, enjoy the perks and remain in the good books of the management. But this time, the script changed much to Patel's bewilderment.

The AIFF promptly constituted a committee to study the viability of staging an election. As expected, there was no sense of urgency.

The AIFF has always blamed the Supreme Court for not giving clear directions to hold elections. In a media statement on May 5, the AIFF said a federation without a president may attract stiff penalty from FIFA and ultimate derecognition. 

Critics saw this AIFF response as "a trick to delay elections and let Patel stay in the hotseat."

For the first time in years, Patel is facing 'opposition'.
For the first time in years, Praful Patel is facing 'opposition'. Photo: AIFF

The Union sports ministry, now under Anurag Thakur, finally turned its back on Patel & Company. The April affidavit saying Patel's tenure expired in 2020 was a clear message for the AIFF to fall in line or face the music.

Former international footballer Kalyan Chaubey, whose petition started it all in December 2020, thanked "all agencies who want the good of Indian football and free it from the clasp of nepotism."

V-For Victory

"Lot of like-minded people have been working behind the scenes to weed out power-hungry officials. Finally, Supreme Court has taken note. This is a really good day for Indian football," said Chaubey, a BJP member in West Bengal.

Senior lawyer Amaresh Kumar, who represented Chaubey in Supreme Court, said Justice Dave will be assisted by the ombudsmen who drafted the new AIFF constitution and submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope in January 2020.

The Supreme Court had ordered a new AIFF constitution in accordance with the Sports Code in November 2017.

It is thus clear that AIFF successfully managed to keep the new constitution away from the attention of the Supreme Court for more than two years to let Patel and his committee rule. The federation reportedly spends Rs 3 crores per annum on legal fees!

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