In a big blow to the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the Bombay high court on Wednesday ordered shifting of all Indian Premier League 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.
- 'IPL games will waste 60 lakh litres in a drought-hit state'
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 the Maharashtra chief minister'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.
- Check out the IPL schedule
The order came on a public interest litigation (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 further added.
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 final on May 29 in Mumbai.
Earlier on Wednesday, the 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.
The BCCI had on Tuesday agreed to shift three matches of Kings XI Punjab out of Nagpur.
BCCI counsel Rafiq Dada on Wednesday 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.
During the arguments, Maharashtra government's 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
"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.
Asked whether BCCI would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court, BCCI counsel Rafiq Dada said, "We will see".
The BCCI and Pune franchise told the bench that it would not be feasible to shift IPL matches out of Pune as it would disturb the brand value of the team and also hit the economic balance.
Pune team franchise's senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas told the court, "We have already invested a lot of money. Shifting matches at this stage will not only affect the finances, but if the home team's games are shifted to another state, the team will lose support."
Dada conceded this argument and said over Rs 30 crore have been invested by the franchises for holding the matches in their respective home cities.
Dwarkadas also told the court that considering the situation in Maharashtra, the Pune franchise has already given an undertaking to BCCI that it will give monetary support to the CM's drought relief fund and also help in transferring water to the drought-hit areas.
Dada argued that during the World T20 held recently, nine qualifying matches were held in Nagpur, but at that time nobody raised a hue and cry about water wastage.
He also said that the BCCI has not received any communication from franchise Kings XI Punjab about monetary contribution to CM's drought relief fund.
Meanwhile, an intervening application was filed on Wednesday by a farmer from Latur, Sanjay Lakhe-Patil, seeking a direction to the state government that it should officially declare Maharashtra drought-hit.
Replying to this, Acting AG Deo said the Government has declared drought like situation in 28000 villages in the state.
The court had on Tuesday asked the BCCI if it could shift IPL matches outside Pune and if the franchises of IPL matches are willing to contribute to the CM's drought relief fund.
During the last hearing in the matter on April 7, the court had declined to stay the IPL opening match on April 9 in Mumbai, as sought by the PIL. The court had then come down heavily on the state government questioning its seriousness in tackling the situation.
|IPL matches in Maharashtra|
|April 9||Mumbai Indians vs Rising Pune Supergiants||Mumbai||2000 IST|
|April 16||Mumbai Indians vs Gujarat Lions||Mumbai||2000 IST|
|April 20||Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore||Mumbai||2000 IST|
|April 22||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Royal Challengers Bangalore||Pune||2000 IST|
|April 24||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Kolkata Knight Riders||Pune||2000 IST|
|April 28||Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders||Mumbai||2000 IST|
|April 29||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Gujarat Lions||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 1||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Mumbai Indians||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 7||Kings XI Punjab vs Delhi Daredevils||Nagpur||2000 IST|
|May 8||Mumbai Indians vs Sunrisers Hyderabad||Mumbai||1600 IST|
|May 9||Kings XI Punjab vs Royal Challengers Bangalore||Nagpur||2000 IST|
|May 10||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Sunrisers Hyderabad||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 13||Mumbai Indians vs Kings XI Punjab||Mumbai||2000 IST|
|May 15||Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Daredevils||Mumbai||1600 IST|
|May 15||Kings XI Punjab vs Sunrisers Hyderabad||Nagpur||2000 IST|
|May 17||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Delhi Daredevils||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 21||Rising Pune Supergiants vs Kings XI Punjab||Pune||1600 IST|
|May 25||Eliminator||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 27||Qualifier 2||Pune||2000 IST|
|May 29||FINAL||Mumbai||2000 IST|