The Supreme Court set aside the Praful Patel-led Executive Committee.

On 18th May,  the Supreme Court appointed a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to take charge of the AIFF’s administration as an interim measure. The committee consists of Justice Anil R Dave (Retired SC Judge), Dr. SY Qureshi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Bhaskar Ganguly (ex-Indian captain).

The decision came soon after Bhaskar Ganguly had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India. Therein he had mentioned that the hearing of the case regarding the new AIFF constitution and subdequent must be expedited “so that the development of football in India can continue.” Ganguly, along with Dr. Qureshi, had submitted the draft for the new AIFF constitution in January 2020. However, it has not been reviewed publicly since.

All this obviously followed after allegations of violating the Sports Code started becoming rampant regarding Praful Patel and the rest of the executive committee. The Sports Ministry noted that the AIFF President had violated the National Sports Code in an affidavit to the court in April.

The ministry filed this affidavit in response to the Special Leave Petition filed by the AIFF that made mention of them being unable to conduct elections due to a pending review of its proposed new constitution. Praful Patel and his Executive Committee’s tenure is the violation in question. They had exceeded the 12-year limit that is permitted under the Sports Code

Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from this landmark judgment:

Ushering a new and better beginning

Following the Supreme Court’s order, this will be the first time that the CoA will take charge of the AIFF. In its 85-year-old history, the body has never failed to hold its elections until the Patel administration broke the streak. Patel had served as acting president for one year after long-time head and then Congress party heavyweight Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi became ill. He then went on to take over as full-time president in October 2009 before being re-elected in 2012 and 2016. 

Additionally, 25 state associations met virtually on Saturday. The two-hour deliberations that followed resulted in a fruitful and final unanimous decision. As per the same, a seven-member committee will work on suggesting necessary changes in the draft constitution of the AIFF before submitting it to the CoA.

“State FAs shall stay united to meet the ongoing crisis. They will work together to restore normalcy and take Indian football forward by strengthening all aspects of football with commitment and dedication,” a state representative who attended the meeting was reported as telling IANS.

Despite such a tumultuous few months, the administrative side of Indian football finally seems to be taking a bright turn. Moreover, with a former player at the helm, it can be expected that the severity is better understood. This ruling will not only ensure the making of a more updated constitution, but also bring out the state sports associations’ best.

Involvement of players at a higher level is crucial for the betterment of Indian Football

Now that Bhaskar Ganguly is one of the chairmen of the interim committee one can never stress the importance of players’ involvement enough. True his goalkeeping days are far behind him. But the SC-appointed ombudsman recognised the need to save Indian Football’s soul in time. It is apparent that his letter to the CJI set the gears in motion for a decision that might have been delayed indefinitely. 

All across the world, player-led committees have had considerable success due to the experience of the inner workings of football contributed by these leaders.

Although Michel Platini’s ethics violation is a darker side of the story, he still made noticeable contributions to UEFA. Former players becoming coaches is all the more normal and another paradigm of the same issue. Hopefully, with Ganguly leading the way, important changes are made to the current scenario in Indian Football.

Frequent scrutiny to ensure corruption-free working of sports bodies

Though this is a much more basic issue, it is one that India has struggled with for a long time. Take the timeline of this case for example. In 2016, the AIFF had last conducted its elections. Additionally, the Praful Patel dispute led way for the integrity of the government to be questioned as well.

AIFF’s Special Leave Petition was filed in 2017 after they asked for clarifications regarding the new constitution. However, only after the escalations in December 2020, when Patel had completed his tenure, did things actually come to light. 

Within a span of one and a half years, the Supreme Court has ramped up its operations. It has nullified the current committee, appointed an interim one, and paved the way for re-elections. Lawsuits and court matters do take time.

But if the current issue is going to be a precedent, the time frame should be heeded. More so, frequent and strict checking of the legislation and administration should be done to allow smoother operation.

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