The Committee of Administrators (CoA) of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has moved the Supreme Court seeking contempt of court action against the body’s former president Praful Patel and several office-bearers of States’ football associations for “interfering with the administration of justice” while accusing them of attempting to defeat the purpose of the Supreme Court’s supervision of the football federation through the CoA.
The petition said the court had on August 3 recorded the consensus among the various parties, including States associations, to first conduct the elections to the AIFF in a time-bound fashion and then to finalise the Constitution. India is scheduled to host the Women's Under-27 World Cup in October 2022
The CoA, in its contempt plea represented by senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, said the States associations had attempted to resile the court’s order, but indirectly.
What did Praful Patel do?
“The evidence enclosed with this contempt petition would show that Mr. Patel, who had been removed as president of the AIFF, consistently abused his position as Council Member of the FIFA to orchestrate a campaign among the State associations to undermine the various steps taken by this court for the betterment of football, including having footballers involved in governance and administration,” the petition alleged.
It narrated that on August 6, the contemnors on behalf of the States associations have participated in meetings conducted by Mr. Patel where “he impliedly admits that letters threatening suspension from the FIFA-AFC have been obtained to ‘help’ them, and that the government is convinced to seek a review of the order [August 3] fearing the worst”.
The CoA said the government had been “misled by the State associations, as have FIFA-AFC who are ignorant of the duplicitous role being played by Mr. Patel”.
“Although many steps have been taken towards the elections, this court-appointed committee seeks that measures be taken [as was done in the BCCI case] to prevent those who endanger Indian football from interfering with the court’s monitoring of the process. Hence, the present contempt petition,” CoA said.
The petition names as contemnors Mr. Patel; Satyanarayan, General Secretary, Karnataka State Football Association; Avijit Paul, Joint Secretary, Football Association of Odisha; Lalnghinglova Hmar, Honorary Secretary, Mizoram Football Association; Mulrajsingh Chudasama, Honorary Secretary, Gujarat State Football Association; Shaji Prabhakaran, President, Football Delhi; Subrata Dutta, Chairman, Indian Football Association (West Bengal); and Vijay Bali, Joint Secretary, Punjab Football Association
The CoA was constituted by the court to carry on the governance of the AIFF and the governance was to be handed over forthwith to it following an apex court order on May 18, 2022, in which it was observed that the continuance of the executive committee of the AIFF beyond its four-year term was “not in the interest of the proper governance of the Federation”.
FIFA-AFC letter of August 5 “created a fear of AIFF being suspended because of non-compliances”
The petition said that on August 5, a joint letter of FIFA-AFC was sent to the Acting Secretary General of the AIFF, implying that “somebody had misinformed FIFA-AFC about the proceedings in court. The FIFA-AFC had expressed misgivings that the promised timelines had been deviated from without the consent of the States associations.
The petition said the CoA had responded on behalf of the AIFF attempting to allay the concerns of FIFA-AFC, and pointed out that there had been no deviation and that the associations were part of the consensus decision to finalise the Constitution after the elections were to be held post-haste.
The CoA said it came to learn that the States associations had given their consent and in fact had approached some individuals in the Union Ministry with a copy of the FIFA-AFC letter of August 5 and “created a fear of AIFF being suspended because of non-compliances”. There was no consultation with the CoA. It said, at the behest of the associations, some members of the Ministry were convinced that the Supreme Court’s order ought to be modified.
“What is worse, and which is the primary cause for the contempt petition, is the continuing central role of Mr. Patel, who has impliedly admitted to having arranged for the letter from FIFA-AFC, and has conducted a meeting of the 35 intervening member associations on August 6 with the express purpose of interfering with the proceedings of this court,” the petition contended.