The Supreme Court Tuesday asked former apex court judge L Nageswara Rao to prepare a comprehensive report on finalising the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) constitution by July 31 for running sports in the country after taking note of objections to a draft document by various stakeholders including FIFA.
The top court directed that the expenses, to be incurred by the Justice Rao panel in finalising the constitution of AIFF, would be borne by the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), a Reliance subsidiary which operates top-tier football league, the Indian Super League, here.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala said the voluminous objections to the draft constitution by various stakeholders can be taken care of by Justice Rao, who had earlier finalised the constitution of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on the orders of the top court.
The bench was of the view that ordinarily it would have embarked on the exercise of finalising the draft constitution of AIFF by hearing all the stakeholders.
“We, however, think that it would be appropriate at this stage to defer the above exercise (of finalising the constitution). Many of the objections, which have been raised by the stakeholders, do not strictly pertain to the issues of law but also trench into issues of policy including the proper modalities for running the sports of football in the country,” it said.
It considered that Justice Rao would be the best suited for the task as he had undertaken a similar exercise under the orders of the top court relating to the IOA.
“It would be appropriate to entrust the task of finalising the constitution to the learned former judge of this court. Many of the objections which have been raised here would find a considerable degree of overlap in the proceedings which took place in relation to the IOA before the learned judge.
“In the circumstances, we request Justice L N Rao, former judge of this court, to take up the task of considering the draft constitution as proposed by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) (of AIFF) which is now been propounded by the learned amicus curiae (senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan),” it said.
The bench urged the former judge to hear all stakeholders including AIFF, state football associations, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and FSDL on the draft constitution in preparing the final report.
“The exercise of considering the draft constitution and submitting a comprehensive report, bearing in mind the objections which have been addressed by all the stakeholders, will be effectively carried out by July 31, 2023,” it said.
The bench was hearing a plea related to finalisation of the constitution of the AIFF after taking note of “clause-by-clause” objections of various stakeholders of football in the country.
The bench took note of the submissions of amicus curiae Sankaranarayanan that in certain respects, the suggestions to the draft constitution have been accepted except those which were “in breach of either the judgements of this court or the national sports code”.
“Similarly, there are other objections in the submissions will have a bearing on the role of athletes who form backbone of the sport,” the bench noted, adding that there has been submissions that it was also necessary to ensure that the “independence and autonomy of AIFF” is preserved without undue interference from outside influences.
The bench directed the FSDIL to deposit Rs 25 lakh with the Justice Rao panel within two weeks from today as initial payment.
It also said that if the panel wanted any kind of procedural directions then it can move the top court through amicus curiae.
Earlier, the top court had said it will hear on May 2 a batch of pleas on issues related to the AIFF including the objections raised to certain aspects of its draft constitution.
The top court had also directed the termination of the mandate of a three-member committee of administrators appointed by it in May last year to manage the affairs of the AIFF.
It had modified its earlier orders to facilitate the revocation of the suspension which was imposed on the AIFF by international football federation FIFA and the holding of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 in India.
On May 18 last year, the bench had appointed the panel headed by Justice (retired) Anil R Dave and had ousted the NCP leader Praful Patel-led management committee that had exceeded its tenure by over two-and-a-half years.
The Dave-headed committee had former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi and former Indian football team captain Bhaskar Ganguly as its members.
However, this came in the way of the holding of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 as no elected AIFF body was at the helm.
On August 16 last year, FIFA had suspended India for “undue influence from third parties” and said the tournament “cannot currently be held in India as planned”. The country, however, later hosted the FIFA event from October 11-30 last year.