SC lens on Praful Patel over allegations of kickbacks, siphoning of AIFF funds, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms


NEW DELHI: Serious trouble seems to be heading the way of former All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel with the Supreme Court saying it would look into whether an FIR should be registered against its former office bearers for alleged embezzlement of AIFF funds.

This development took place on Wednesday before a bench led by CJI D Y Chandrachud, which also sent contempt of court notices to Patel and Shaji Prabhakaran, the present secretary general of AIFF, on the allegation that the previous AIFF management had tried to circumvent an SC order appointing a committee of administrators by persuading Fifa to write a letter threatening to disqualify AIFF.

Amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Shanakaranarayanan told the bench that a forensic audit report conducted by Deloitte “points out how kickbacks were received by members of the then AIFF management in awarding contracts during 2017-22”.

The SC bench which also comprised Justices Hima Kohli and J S Pardiwala said it would peruse the sealed cover audit report on the siphoning of the money belonging to AIFF and decide whether or not to make it public. “I am reticent about sealed cover contents. We will go through the report and decide whether it required lodging of formal FIR for further investigation. If further investigation was required, then those portions would be redacted from the forensic report and given to the parties,” the CJI said.

Amicus curiae and senior advocate Gopal Shanakaranarayanan told the bench that the report has several personal communications. “It will be better if the bench decides whether or not to make the entire report public,” he said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the bench after going through the report, if necessary, can order a comprehensive probe into the affairs of AIFF. When senior advocate Rahul Mehra suggested that the amicus curiae could lodge the complaint, the SG said that would require the amicus curiae to step into the witness box during the trial, which is undesirable. The CJI agreed with the SG.

On the prosecution of the contempt petition, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran said the AIFF is of the opinion that the task could be entrusted to Shankaranarayanan as the contemnors included present secretary general of AIFF and four other office bearers. Both the bench and amicus termed this as a “fair stand” of the AIFF.

SG said the finalisation of the amendments to the AIFF constitution is required to be completed as per the suggestions given by Justice (rtd) L N Rao. He said objections to certain clauses have been received and those need to be debated. SC asked the amicus to tabulate the objections to enable finalisation of the Constitution after hearing all parties including the objectors. It posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

On the forensic audit report of Deloitte, the bench asked the registry to circulate it among the three judges and said it would decide the modalities for further action on the next date of hearing.

The SC on May 18 had disbanded Patel-led management and appointed a Committee of Administrators comprising Justice A R Dave, former CEC S Y Quraishi and former India captain Bhaskar Ganguly. However, the COA had to be discontinued following a letter from FIFA threatening to de-recognise AIFF as it did not have an elected body. The CoA had alleged that the previous management had persuaded FIFA to send the letter to AIFF to overreach the SC order appointing CoA.

When amicus said that it was a sad performance by Indian U-17 women football team at the World Cup hosted by India where the hosts were blanked 8-0, 5-0 and 3-0 in the three matches they played, CJI Chandrachud said, “We all like football and it has to be taken to the stature enjoyed by cricket and hockey by putting the management with responsible people, who could follow the working models adopted by cricket and hockey managements.”


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