Praful Patel has no mandate to continue as All India Football Federation (AIFF) president as he has already served three terms and the national body should hold elections without further delay, the Sports Ministry informed the Supreme Court.
In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on April 8 in relation to a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the AIFF, the sports ministry said Patel's tenure was in violation of the Sports Code.
"...the term of existing committee (of AIFF) is already over, and the existing president (Praful Patel) has completed more than 12 years as president, the petitioner (AIFF) should hold elections without further delay as per extant instructions contained under Sports Code and the instructions issued by the Answering Respondent (sports ministry) from time to time,” the ministry's affidavit said.
"That thus the tenure of an office bearer of the Petitioner, such as the president, who has already served 12 years as president of AIFF, will be in violation of the Sports Code, specifically clause 9.3 (iii) of the Sports Code read with the notification dated 01.05.2010."
Patel completed his three terms and 12 years as AIFF president in December 2020, the maximum permitted to a national sports federation (NSF) chief under the Sports Code.
The AIFF, however, did not hold the elections, citing a pending petition in the Supreme Court regarding its constitution.
The AIFF moved an application in the Supreme Court only a month before its elections were due, seeking certain clarifications on the status of its constitution, which was under scrutiny in the Apex Court since 2017. The case is still pending.
In a series of tweets, the AIFF said it's ready to hold elections "tomorrow" if the Supreme Court approves its constitution.
It said since its application seeking directions regrading holding the elections is still pending with the Supreme Court, it is "constrained to hold office in the absence of a new body".
"As per the constitution of FIFA and AFC, it is mandatory to have an elected body representing the affairs of AIFF," it said.
"Otherwise AIFF will lose its affiliation with FIFA and AFC and will not be able to either participate or hold any international competition in India including the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
"We would be more than happy to hold the elections tomorrow if the SC approves our constitution. Already our constitution is in conformity with the National Sports Code adhering the age limit of 70 years and three tenures totalling 12 years."
The AIFF, however, did not explain how the elected body could not be a new one and not the current office bearers.
It also said the Sports Ministry's April 8 affidavit "is nothing but a reiteration of the issues which we have mentioned in our application to SC".
"AIFF has filed an application before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India on 20th November 2020.
"Suo moto, we have requested the SC to guide us about the next steps that we should take regarding holding the election in our AGM to be held on 21st Dec 2020.
"Our President Mr. Praful Patel has stated on several occasions including in the AGM of AIFF that he has completed his tenure and is not seeking re-election."
The ministry, in its affidavit, also hinted that AIFF could lose its government recognition for not adhering to the sports code.
"As the last elections held by the petitioner was on 21.12.2016, as such the Petitioner is required to conduct fresh elections. While recently the Answering Respondent (sports ministry) renewed the Petitioner's (AIFF) annual recognition for a year with effect from 23.10.2020, such recognition is subject to the outcome of the special leave petition pending before this honourable court.
"Furthermore, the Answering Respondent (sports ministry) in their renewal letter dated 23.10.2020 has categorically stated that the Petitioner (AIFF) needs to bring their constitution in line with provisions of the Sports Code within six months from the date of issue of the letter," the ministry said in the affidavit.
In 2017, the Delhi High Court had set aside the election of Patel as AIFF president (in the 2016 AGM) on a petition by senior advocate Rahul Mehra.
But the Supreme Court had stayed the High Court decision, allowing Patel to continue in his role, while also appointing former Chief Election Commissioner of India S Y Quraishi and former national captain Bhaskar Ganguly as administrators and to formulate the AIFF constitution.
Patel has, however, said in the past that he cannot contest in any election of the AIFF but somehow the polls of the national federation have not been held due to reasons best known to the former union minister and his faction.
In February, at the AIFF AGM in Mumbai, Patel had finally agreed to constitute a committee to look into the matter.
The three-member committee was asked to submit their report in three months.