The Supreme Court on Monday directed the termination of the mandate of the three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by a former apex court judge, appointed by it nearly two months back for managing the affairs of the national football body AIFF.
The top court said that it is modifying its earlier orders to facilitate the revocation of the suspension which has been imposed on AIFF by FIFA and the holding of the Under-17 Women's World Cup 2022 in India.
The apex court on May 18 appointed a three-member CoA headed by Justice (retd) Anil R Dave, former chief election commissioner SY Qureshi, former Indian football team captain Bhaskar Ganguly and ousted NCP leader Praful Patel-led management committee, which had exceeded its tenure by over two and half years.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said, "In the event that the above process is not taken to its logical conclusion, the Court would consider any further order at the subsequent stage".
It also postponed the August 28 elections of the AIFF by one week to allow a changed electoral college and the start of the nomination process.
The order came on a fresh plea filed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports seeking modification of the May 18 and August 3 orders of the court after consultation with the international football federation (FIFA) to ensure revocation of the suspension of AIFF and the hosting right for holding of the Under-17 Women's World Cup 2022 in India.
It said, "The day-to-day management of AIFF shall be exclusively looked after by the AIFF Administration led by the Acting Secretary General. The mandate of the Committee of Administrators appointed by the order of this Court stands terminated".
The bench noted that the CoA has already submitted the draft Constitution for the AIFF, together with a tabulated set of suggestions, to this Court on July 15, 2022, and therefore appointed its counsel senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan to assist it as amicus curiae.
Former Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia and CoA opposed modification of the court's orders and said the court should not terminate the reform process and not come under pressure from threats of FIFA as sacrificing the Under-17 Women's World Cup now would eventually enable the youngsters of the country, in the long run, to look for the main World Cup.
The bench said that it understands the gravity of the situation but cannot sacrifice the world cup scheduled to be held later this year in the larger interest of the country.
"Had it been cricket and a world cup would have been cancelled due to the court order, everyone would have targeted us saying there are people who have done this or that. Here, we understand everything and our only concern is that the scheduled Under-17 Women's World Cup is held in India", it said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that there are two "disastrous consequences" the country is facing, if the orders are not modified -- one that India will lose hosting rights of any future football world cup, and second our teams will not be able to play even friendly international matches across the world.
He said that it is not that India is being discriminated against but FIFA follows uniform policy across the world against third-party interference.
The bench said bearing in mind the importance of the Under-17 Women's World Cup 2022 tournament being held in India, it is passing the directions on the application --The election programme, which was fixed in pursuance of the order dated August 3, 2022, is permitted to be modified by extending the date of election by one week.
"The voters' list for the ensuing elections shall consist exclusively of representatives of the Member Associations representing the States/Union Territories (35+1 Associations)", the bench said and excluded eminent players as directed earlier.
It said the returning officers - Umesh Sinha and Tapas Bhattacharya-shall be deemed to be the returning officers appointed by this Court to conduct the elections as there has been no objection to their continuance by any of the contesting parties before this Court, including the member associations representing the States/Union Territories.
It said the time for the completion of the elections which were scheduled to take place on August 28, 2022, shall stand extended by a period of one week and appreciated the efforts of Justice (retd.) Dave led the committee.
"The Returning Officers shall, within the said period, refix the modalities for the filing of nominations from the stage which was reached on August 13, 2022, and ensure that the elections are completed on schedule", it said, adding the Executive Committee of AIFF shall consist of 23 persons.
The bench said 17 members (inclusive of the President, a Treasurer, and one Vice President) will be elected by the Electoral College consisting of 35 Associations representing States/Union Territories and six members shall be drawn from eminent players which four men and two women.
On August 17, the court asked the Centre to take a "pro-active" role in getting the world football governing body FIFA's suspension of the AIFF lifted and facilitating the holding of the Under-17 Women's World Cup in India.
On August 16, the world football governing body FIFA suspended India for "undue influence from third parties" and said the U-17 Women's World Cup "cannot currently be held in India as planned."
The country is scheduled to host its first FIFA event from October 11-30.