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SC asks Centre to take “pro-active” role to lift FIFA’S AIFF suspension, ensure hosting of U-17 Women’s World Cup in India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to take a “pro-active” role in getting the world football governing body FIFA‘s suspension of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) lifted and facilitating the holding of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India.

The order was given by the apex court even as the Centre submitted that all efforts are being made to “break some ice” to organise the U-17 Women’s World Cup in India as scheduled in October this year, a day after the FIFA suspended India for “undue influence from third parties” and stripped the country of the right to host the event.

It was for the first time that the AIFF was banned by the FIFA in its 85-year-old history.

The top court deferred till the August 22 hearing on a matter relating to the AIFF after the Centre said it is in discussion with the International Football Federation (FIFA) over holding of the women’s tournament from October 11-30.

“We would impress upon the Union of India to take a pro-active role in the matter so that the holding of the Under-17 World Cup and the lifting of the suspension of AIFF is duly facilitated,” a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, AS Bopanna, and JB Paridwala said.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, informed the bench that two meetings have been held by the government and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) with the FIFA authorities on Tuesday and discussions are going on with a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

He requested that the matter be deferred till August 22 so that a consensus could be arrived at among the active stakeholders of the AIFF.

Mehta said that all through the process the CoA has played a very constructive role and urged that a few words from the court to all stakeholders to sort out the situation will help them in their endeavour.

“Yesterday, after the development, which the judges may also be in the know-how, we took up the matter with the FIFA. We had two meetings with FIFA and we can say that we have reached a stage, where we can say that efforts are being made to break some ice. Therefore, I request that the matter be deferred for further hearing till next Monday”, Mehta said.

The bench said the World Cup is a great international event for the under 17 children and it is only concerned with the fact it is held in the country.

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, who is the original petitioner before the Delhi High Court, alleged that the entire episode has been orchestrated by the former AIFF President Praful Patel, who was ousted after the top court’s order in May this year.

“Some members of the AIFF had to step down following the Supreme Court order and the CoA has taken over. These ousted members are orchestrating all of this. It is former AIFF President Praful Patel behind all this.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an intervenor, said the interference of an international body has happened like in the BCCI management matter in 2017 and the court had to pass some strict orders.

Mehta said he is representing only the government of India and is concerned with the prestige of the country. “I can say that only active stakeholders are being consulted and no one else and the court can come down heavily on those who are interfering,” he added.

The bench then said that if somebody from outside is trying to interfere with the process, then it would not tolerate it.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the CoA, said an immediate impact of FIFA’s action was that one Football club from Kerala which landed in Uzbekistan yesterday for the Women’s Club Championship had to suffer due to the cancellation of matches and their fate remains uncertain.

He also referred to a fixture of Mohun Bagan Football Club being cancelled and their future also remains uncertain.

A ban on India was on the cards after the Supreme Court removed Praful Patel as AIFF president on May 18 for not holding elections due in December 2020.

The court had appointed a three-member CoA, headed by former apex court judge AR Dave, to manage the affairs of the national federation.

The CoA, which has former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and ex-India captain Bhaskar Ganguly as other members, also had to frame the federation’s constitution in line with the National Sports Code and model guidelines.

On August 10, the top court warned the State football Associations that it does not appreciate their “back door methods” to defeat the orders of the court and that it is up to them to hold the 2022 FIFA-U-17 Women’s World Cup in India.

The Centre had earlier moved the top court seeking modification of its August 3 order concerning elections for the executive committee of AIFF and inclusion of ex-players in the Electoral College, saying FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have “strong reservations in the member structure of AIFF”.

On August 3, the top court directed holding of elections expeditiously to AIFF’S executive committee as per the schedule proposed by the CoA and said the electoral college for the executive committee would comprise representatives from 36 states associations and 36 representatives of eminent football players.

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