On October 31, the Delhi High Court cast aside Praful Patel's December 2016 election to the post of All India Football Federation (AIFF) president for a third term after ruling that the voting process had been in breach of the national sports code. The full court order is now available and here are the court's reasons for its decision, and the road ahead for the AIFF.
FIFA angle, other federations
One of the primary concerns raised before the court by the petitioner, Rahul Mehra, was the AIFF's citing of Article 27(1) of its parent body FIFA's constitution. That clause required the candidates for president and other office-bearers to have the support of at least five member associations. But the petition said the sports code had made it clear that each candidate needed the support of only two members - one to propose, one to second it.
The court was clear in upholding the petitioner's argument. FIFA's Article 27(1), it said, referred to elections to the international body and not for the national football association of a Member Association. "There is nothing on record to show that the same method of voting is essential for the Member Associations of FIFA and the said clause is either mandatory or applicable to the applicant." The court also pointed out that the FIFA rule was "not in consonance with the National Sports Code."
The court also went by several precedents across a number of national sports federations -- archery, hockey, gymnastics, wrestling as well as cricket -- that had violated the sports code. The transgressions ranged from discrepancies in issuing notices for elections, appointment of returning officers, filing of nominations and not providing candidates adequate time for canvassing. All these appeared to have taken place in the case of the AIFF too.
Lack of a proper time schedule
* Though the elections were scheduled for 21 December 2016, all permanent and associate members of the AIFF were told of the date only on November 17. The name of the returning officer -- the only person from whom nomination forms for various positions could be obtained -- was intimated to all concerned on November 25, but only with the address. The officer's landline number was given out only on November 30 -- and even that was a false one, according to the Goa Football Association (GFA).
* In order to properly represent itself at the AIFF elections, the Delhi governing body was informed of the need to conduct its own elections -- overdue from May 2015 -- in November 2016. Similarly, the association in Andhra Pradesh is said to have expressed its concerns about the state of the game since the formation of Telangana (in 2014). The GFA said the electoral college roll for December 21 elections was sent on November 23 -- a violation of Article 23.2 of the AIFF's own constitution, which required a minimum notice of 30 days.
* The GFA also alleged electoral malpractice on part of AIFF senior vice-president Subrata Dutta, who is said to have followed up an e-mail about proposed executive committee members with an SMS "instructing" all members to fill up nomination forms in accordance with the proposed panel.
* Despite being asked on December 5 to send the electoral college list so that prospective candidates could meet the delegates/persons who would be voting, the AIFF made the list available only on December 13. Moreover, the names of delegates provided on December 13 were said to be "significantly different" from those who voted when the elections actually took place.
The Delhi High Court has ordered fresh AIFF elections under the supervision of former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi. It has set November 30 as the date by which to "resolve the issue of disaffiliation of members/units" of the AIFF, so that the electoral list can be drawn up again. Elections are to be then held within six weeks of the preparation of the electoral college, with the elected body then urged to "carry out the requisite amendments" to bring the AIFF constitution in conformity with the national sports code.
The entire exercise has been given five months from the date that Quraishi takes charge, though the court has effectively given until November 14 for the order to come into effect so as to "obviate any impediment in the conduct of any competitive tournament" scheduled during this period. This means that the AIFF in its current shape has another week to ensure that the Indian Super League and the I-League don't get affected in terms of planning.
The court also said that till the elections were conducted and results declared, the AIFF would need the Administrator's prior approval for all new financial commitments and for routine expenses too.