In a big blow to BCCI, the Bombay High Court today ordered shifting of all IPL matches scheduled in Maharashtra after April 30 to another state in view of the severe drought in the state, leaving the cricket board 18 days to look for new venues for 13 matches in May.
This means that 13 matches, including the final in Mumbai on May 29, cannot be held in Maharashtra.
The order came despite an assurance by BCCI that IPL franchises of Mumbai and Pune had agreed to contribute Rs five crore to CM’s drought relief fund.
“We agree that merely shifting of IPL matches out of the state will not be a solution but this can be a beginning to address the drought situation in Maharashtra. Several people are dying because of water scarcity in the state. This court cannot ignore the plight of such people,” a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and M S Karnik said.
The order came on a PIL by NGO ‘Loksatta Movement’ which challenged the use of over 60 lakh litres of water for ground management despite drought in the state and had sought for all the matches to be shifted out of Maharashtra.
The court also noted that several districts in Maharashtra are not even getting water for sanitation and other purposes and that the non-potable water being used by the stadiums to maintain pitches can be of use in such districts.
“In such cases one would have expected the BCCI and other respondents (Maharashtra Cricket Association and Bombay Cricket Association) to come forward on their own and shift the matches out of Maharashtra. However, unfortunately, nothing has been done. This court has now no other option than to direct BCCI to transfer matches out of Maharashtra,” the court said.
“All matches to be held from April 30 onwards in Maharashtra will have to be shifted to another state. We are giving the authorities 15 days time to make all necessary arrangements,” the court said.
After April 30, 13 matches were scheduled to be held in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur which includes an eliminator match on May 25 and qualifier match on May 27 in Pune and the finals on May 29 in Mumbai.
Earlier in the day, Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) through BCCI gave an undertaking to the court that it would supply over 60 lakh litres treated sewage water to maintain pitches in Mumbai and Pune stadiums. BCCI had yesterday agreed to shift three matches out of Nagpur.
BCCI counsel Rafiq Dada today told the court that the cricket board and the IPL franchises were ready to procure equal amount of sewage treated water from RWITC and supply it to drought hit areas.
“If the IPL matches are shifted outside Maharashtra at
the most the BCCI and IPL franchises will suffer financial loss. Considering the drought situation in Maharashtra it will be better if the matches are held outside the state,” the court said.
The court, while disposing of the PIL, said it would continue monitoring the issue of implementation of water policy by the state government in other similar petitions.
“There is no doubt that the state of Maharashtra and many districts in Marathwada region are facing severe drought. The situation in Marathwada is very acute with the people there not getting a single drop of water since many days. All dams and rivers have gone dry and water had to be supplied via train to Latur,” the court noted.
The court in its order also came down heavily on Maharashtra government for turning a “blind eye” to the situation.
“The state government has turned a blind eye to the entire issue. We are disturbed by the government’s stand and ultimately it is clear that the government is trying to pass on the buck to the municipal corporations by saying that the government has not supplied any water to stadiums,” the court observed.
It further noted that the government on the one hand said that it has no objection if the IPL matches are shifted outside Maharashtra but on the other hand has not even bothered to inquire with the cricket board or the other cricket associations over alleged misuse of water to maintain pitches.
“It is clear that the state government has not taken any action and has just asked the concerned civic body to conduct inquiry to ascertain if drinking water is being misused,” the court said.
Earlier, during the arguments, acting Advocate General Rohit Deo told the court that the government would not be in favour of IPL matches if potable water is being used to maintain pitches.
“However, if drinking water is not being misused then we have nothing against IPL. Is any sport so pernicious or sinful that it has to be sent to another state. If one wants to show solidarity towards the drought situation and ban IPL matches then all other activities like theatres and circus should be sent out of Maharashtra,” Deo said.