The Supreme Court on Wednesday passed an interim order asking the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to hold and conclude elections for its executive committee as expeditiously as possible and well in time for the Women’s Under-17 World Cup which will be played in India in October 2022.
A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to a 27-day time election schedule prepared by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) — represented by senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan — which manages the affairs of the AIFF. According to this schedule, the election results would be declared on August 28/29, 2022.
The court ordered that the election be conducted in a manner consistent with Article 26 of the draft Constitution prepared by the CoA, which prescribes the limits and conditions of eligibility for candidates.
The Bench noted that this would be an “interim arrangement” for three months. The interim elected body would not claim any equities and was subject to further orders of the apex court. The Constitution of the AIFF may be finalised in the meantime.
The court also agreed with the CoA’s proposal that 36 eminent players who represent prominent football players’ community should be part of the electoral college with right to vote in the AIFF polls.
The court agreed with the CoA’s suggestion that while in future, a National Players’ Commission could be constituted from which these eminent players could be drawn, the players for the electoral college for the present AIFF polls, considering the current exigencies, could be chosen based on their seniority. The court said the players chosen should have represented India in at least one international match and retired two years prior to the date of notification of the upcoming AIFF election. It said the 36-member eminent players’ representatives should be composed of 24 men footballers and 12 women players.
The court said that inclusion of sportspersons in the electoral college and giving them the right to vote was consistent with the National Sports Code and model election guidelines.
“Let us have some players also in the electoral college… We are looking at the healthy development of the sport of football. Let us give a voice to those who actually contributed to the sport with their skill, their knowledge and their athleticism… How will a sport develop without its players?” Justice Chandrachud addressed the court.
He was responding to arguments that the Sport Code only allows states’ associations the right to represent stakeholders and vote for them.
“The National Sports Code cannot be read in the manner of a statute. A wholistic understanding of its provisions is needed to effectuate its intended purpose… In this backdrop, consistent to the need for the healthy development of the sport of football in the country, the inclusion of eminent players who actually represented India would be of immense benefit for ensuring the growth of the sport in a healthy manner,” the court noted.
It further noted that the “minimum 25% voting rights” for sportspersons in the management of national sports federations was only an “indicative figure” and would be a matter of deliberation with the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs”.