Refusin to stay the Indian Premier League (IPL) match scheduled to be played at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on April 9, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said that “it hoped and trusted” those organising the matches would take a “proper decision” on whether other scheduled matches were to be played in the state or not. (Fixtures | Squads)
A division Bench of Justice VM Kanade and MS Karnik were hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Loksatta Movement and others. The petitioners have claimed as much as 60 lakh litres of water is proposed to be used for maintaining cricket pitches in the three venues nominated for IPL 2016, in Maharashtra.
The IPL is set to begin from April 9 with the first match to be played in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. A total of 20 matches will be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. The finals of the tournament scheduled on May 29 will also be held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
The court said that since the petition had been filed at the fag-end, cancelling it was not possible as all the arrangements had been made. Senior Counsel Rafique Dada appearing for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pointed out to the closure of the cricket pitch in Latur owing to the shortage of water and said, “Are we going to let all pitches in the country die like this?”
Justice Kanade replied it is ultimately a question of priority, of whether a game was more important to people. “Cattle are dying due to scarcity of water. If this is your argument, then we are sorry. Are you saying that it is important to maintain cricket pitches and gardens when people are dying all over Maharashtra. There is an urgent need to conserve water and is not a question of IPL alone,” said the Judge.
Pointing to how everyone was making money from IPL in this situation, the HC ultimately questioned what the government proposed to do and the “political will” in such a situation. Pulling up the government, the court said while the state appealed to people to play dry Holi due to shortage of water, why did they allow these matches to be played in Maharashtra knowing it huge quantity of water would be consumed maintaining pitches.
“When you say water should not be wasted how did you consider allowing an event which requires such huge amounts of water throughout. During Holi the government appealed to people to play a dry Holi then how did you not take note of this,” asked justice Kanade. While replying to queries raised by the court on what the state was doing in such a situation, acting AG Rohit Deo said that the government was not insensitive to the plight of the people.
“A figure of 40 lakh litre has been given to water the stadium in Mumbai. We do not know the source of the non-potable water. We will enquire into this” he said.
Asking the government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to file affidavits before the next date of hearing on April 12, the court also directed the government to answer if it proposes to impose any restriction on marriages, receptions or any other functions from taking place in the month of April and May owing to the shortage of water.”
“The state government should inform us if any policy has been formulated for supply of potable and non-potable water in Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan and other parts of Maharashtra,” added the HC. The state has also been asked to inform the court if it has a contingency plan in case there is further scarcity of water due to delayed monsoon.
With the BCCI maintaining that non-potable water was used to water and maintain the cricket pitches, the court has sought a reply if any enquiry has been made on the source of water made available to tankers and if the government plans to pass orders for requisitioning wells and borewells situated in Mumbai and neighboring cites.
“The BMC should file an affidavit informing us on the source of water for tankers providing municipal water in Mumbai,” said the HC, adding that such tankers charged Rs 900.
“Can the corporation make profit out of this. In such a situation there is so much disparity and people with money can have as much while people living in Thane, Kalyan have to go without water for days. God forbid if it doesn’t rain what will you do?” asked Justice Kanade.
The petitioners said it was ultimately commercial interest against human interest and suffering “Prisoners are being shifted out from prisons in Latur, government hospitals have shut down. People are fighting over water. In Pune, people are importing water from neigbouring areas while in Nagpur there is no water for sanitation purposes also,” said Arshil Shah, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners.
Dada while pointing out how both the petitioners were from Hyderabad said there was no need to water the pitch a day before or on the day the match is to be played. “ This petition has been filed too late. There are people who have bought their tickets and players who have been chosen,” he said.
He added that before organising matches BCCI had written to all player associations on arrangements made.
“Mumbai (the association) had told us they were using non-potable water used for urinal flushing to maintain pitches, Nagpur said it had underground wells in their premises and did rain water harvesting besides having a water treatment plant while Pune also uses non-potable water,” he added.
The court said if the government had been sensitive to the situation, steps would have been taken by them.
“Mobilise funds. Ensure water is provided in the next three to four months and things are done on a war footing. You should have thought of importing water from other states,” said Justice Kanade.
“The chief minister has directed that not a single drop of drinking water should be used for other purposes. We will look into where tankers get water from. This would be taken seriously by government. The tankers cannot be used to provide BMC water,” said Deo. He also said that the government could look at declaring a state of scarcity under which private borewells and wells could be requisitioned.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines