New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday warned State football Associations that it does not appreciate their “back door methods” to defeat the orders of the court and it is up to them to hold the 2022 FIFA-U-17 Women’s World Cup in India. The top court said that it had passed a consent order on August 3 and the way forward is that the Committee of Administrator (CoA) and Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to engage with the International Football Federation (FIFA) and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) concerning hosting of the international tournament.
It has taken note of the fact that from October 11, 2022, India is due to host the FIFA Under-17 Women world cup 2022. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and AS Bopanna said that it is listing for Thursday the modification applications filed by the State Football Associations, the Centre, and a contempt petition filed by the CoA against ousted AIFF president Praful Patel for allegedly “interfering with the proceedings” of the top court. The bench told senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for State football associations, “We don’t appreciate your back door methods to defeat the orders of the court. Ultimately, you have to decide whether you want to hold the tournament or not. We were also tracking what was happening after our last week’s order”.
Guruswamy said that they have also filed an application and want it to be listed along with other applications filed by other parties. She said, “We would also like the tournament to be held in this country. Our country’s future in football depends on this tournament”.
The bench told her that it would see to it on Thursday after it takes up all the applications for hearing. At the outset, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for COA, said that they have filed a contempt application as unfortunately some disturbing developments have taken place and they are “facing problem in the implementation of court’s order due to interference by a person, who has been ousted by this court”. He said that they have found that due to this interference the Central government is also facing some pressure and they were to file a modification application.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, said that they have filed a modification application seeking to modify the order of August 3, after FIFA has written to them about a roadmap being not followed. “FIFA has said that they will withdraw the hosting rights if their agreed roadmap is not followed. This letter of FIFA is sticking at the very root of the interim order and that is why we have filed the application”, he said.
The bench told Jain that FIFA is an international organisation and it is not under its jurisdiction and the best way forward is that the Centre and COA engage with FIFA and ensure that the tournament is held. “We think the best way forward is dialogue and ask your client (the Centre) to intervene and hold discussions with the FIFA delegation and sort it out. Hopefully, some way will be found. We will be listing all the applications for tomorrow (Thursday), the bench said. Sankaranarayanan said that their contempt application be also listed although they will not press it but for documentation purposes, it may be listed to which the bench agreed.
Meanwhile, 35 football associations have moved the top court seeking appropriate directions to ensure that elections to the AIFF executive are conducted in accordance with the requirements of and assurances given to FIFA/AFC to ensure continued recognition of the AIFF. They have said that on August 5, the Secretary Generals of FIFA and AFC sent a letter to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) making clear that India’s suspension from FIFA, and the withdrawal of India’s hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, is imminent. The state associations have said that the FIFA and the AFC have taken such a strong stance because of three reasons–First, it appears that the CoA’s proposal goes against the roadmap agreed upon with FIFA and the AFC, second, changing the electoral college’s composition amounts to a third party influencing the affairs of AIFF as per FIFA and third, including individual sportspersons in the AIFF General Body violates the FIFA Statutes 2022. On August 9, the Centre moved the top court seeking modification of its August 3 order passed concerning elections to AIFF and inclusion of ex-players in the electoral college saying FIFA and AFC have “strong reservations in the member structure of AIFF”.
On August 3, the top court directed for holding of elections expeditiously to the executive committee of the AIFF as per the schedule proposed by the COA. The top court had said that the Electoral College of AIFF would have representatives from 36 state football associations and 36 representatives of eminent football players.
It said that 36 representatives of eminent football players would consist of 24 members of male football players and 12 female players, who have played at least one international football match representing India and have retired from international tournaments two years prior to the date of notification of the elections. The apex court had on May 18 appointed a three-member CoA headed by former top court judge Anil R Dave to manage the affairs of the AIFF and ousted NCP leader Praful Patel-led executive committee which had overstayed its four-year term by two years.
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