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AIFF Election Row: Rahul Mehra - Praful Patel's election was a hoax!

2:22 AM GMT+8 01/11/2017
Rahul Mehra Praful Patel AIFF Collage
Sport Activist Rahul Mehra spoke exclusively to explaining the judgement by the Delhi HC, setting aside the AIFF elections of December 2016..

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) was hit by a massive roadblock on Tuesday when the Delhi High Court set aside it's President Praful Patel's elections in December 2016 citing the violation of the National Sports Development Code of India (2011).

Patel was elected unopposed and unanimously for a third successive term (2017-2020). But, advocate and well-known sports activist Rahul Mehra submitted a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the same, with the Delhi High Court ruling the election illegal.

Rahul Mehra spoke exclusively to Goal, explaining how he exposed the AIFF's disregard for the National Sports Code during the electoral process, one step towards victory in his fight to rid sports of politics in India.

"The PIL was filed in 2009 in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. Since then, I have filed various applications and petitions within this PIL asking for de-recognition, asking for fair elections and various other things including the overhauling of the sports code and bringing about new law and reforms. In fact, most of them I have succeeded in and around 6 to 7 federations were de-recognised and have had to undergo reforms pertaining to that."

Mehra in December 2009 filed the PIL which had the AIFF as one of its respondents. In the last eight years, Mehra's plea has helped sound the death-knell for veteran administrators such as Suresh Kalmadi and VK Malhotra who ran athletics and archery for decades in the country, most with allegations of corruption against them.

"There were numerous violations in Praful Patel's election. They not only did not follow the sports code but their constitution itself had restricted clauses. The court had more or less agreed with and upheld almost all of my arguments concerning the violation of the code, the constitutional provisions being restricted and there were variants between the constitution of the AIFF and the code. They were trying to come out with the argument that they are following FIFA guidelines and that they are not bound by the code as was rejected in the earlier matters also."

"My argument was that the election was a farce. It was not democratically held. It was basically a diktat from the top that these are the people that we have chosen and you have to make have to make sure that they are selected unanimously. That mail had been circulated to all the executive and various members of the state associations. Therefore, it is just a hoax and not an election," he expressed.

A bench constituting Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Najmi Waziri has now appointed former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr. S Y Quraishi as an administrator to look into the functioning of the AIFF.

Mehra was also careful of the fact that the discrepancy in the electoral process must not hamper and tarnish the reputation of the nation while hosting the largely successful FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

He said, "In December 2016, this was an application within the (initial) PIL. The court had initially stayed the process and subsequently had lifted it saying that we will decide your matter. The arguments got concluded in sometime in April or May. Since the FIFA U17 World Cup was to happen, I myself argued and requested the court that we should not disturb it right now and India's name is out there and the entire process is underway. I am sure the court had waited and immediately after the World Cup is over, the court has come out with its verdict."

Mehra also recounted an incident when he was approached by the apex body earlier this year, invited to be a part in one of their committees. "Sometime back they wanted me in their arbitration committee and I had very politely written back to Kushal Das (AIFF General Secretary) saying sorry I wouldn't be able to take this assignment given I am fighting you in court and that will be a conflict of interest."

"Other than that I have no contacts with them, I don't know them nor do I intend to know them."

What now for Praful Patel and co.?

Also a co-founder of the political party AAP, Mehra laid bare the procedure that could succeed in the time ahead for the AIFF. " After going through the order if the other side wants, deems that if there is any kind of a challenge possible, they can challenge it in the Supreme Court."

"The Supreme Court if it considers that they have prima facie a good case can also stay the order of the High Court. If they consider that there is nothing in the case they will not stay and the administrator will continue. They can also dismiss the petition if they feel there is a frivolous challenge."

"Within five months they have to conduct fresh elections and place a fresh executive body in the AIFF and also amend the constitution of the AIFF to bring it in confidence with the national sports code", he explained.

"Free and fair elections is the bedrock of democracy. How can you not have free and fair elections in sport?", concluded the quadragenarian.