IPL opener to be held in Mumbai after High Court adjourns hearing
The opening match of IPL 2016 will be played in Mumbai on April 9 as scheduled after the Bombay High Court adjourned a matter related to the hosting of matches in the drought-hit state of Maharashtra. While hearing a Public Interest Litigation on Wednesday and Thursday, the High Court had sought an explanation from the BCCI and the three state associations on why water should be "wasted" on IPL matches in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur following a severe state-wide drought in recent months. The matter will next be heard on April 12.
While the division bench, comprising Justices VM Kanade and MS Karnik, has not yet passed an order, it has asked the Maharashtra government and Mumbai's civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, to file replies outlining plans to address the issue of water shortage in the state. The court has also asked for a report on how the water suppliers for organisations like the BCCI are getting water from. The Advocate General's office, appearing on behalf of the state, contended that 21,000 litres of water were sanctioned to the Wankhede Stadium for use per day, 0.00058% of the water utilised by city of Mumbai.
"We don't care about a tournament like the IPL. Their interests are purely commercial and to mint money," the court said on Thursday. "But just because they can pay for water tankers providing water at a premium rate, while others can't afford it, means there is a problem that the state has failed to identify and address.
"The state authorities must, therefore, find out where the BCCI's water suppliers get their water from. That is not the BCCI's prerogative, it is the state's."
While the court stressed on the accountability of civic agencies, it also criticised the arguments made by the BCCI counsel in response to the PIL filed by Loksatta Movement, a Hyderabad-based NGO, which had demanded relocation of IPL matches from Maharashtra. The board's senior counsel, Rafique Dada, said that less water was used at the grounds during the IPL in comparison to preparations for an international match.
"For international matches, there is a requirement for pitches to be watered 48 hours prior to the match, but for IPL matches, it is just watered twice a day on the day of the match." Dada submitted. "Therefore, if taken to its logical conclusion, there is less water used during the IPL than otherwise."
Dada added that apart from watering pitches, the remaining usage of water was "routine" by the standards of "all international stadia for its day-to-day maintenance". He also argued that prohibiting such day-to-day maintenance would lead pitches and grounds of international standards to "die a natural death".
In response, Justice Kanade observed: "We were expecting you (the board) to show some consideration or at least submit that you will consider using the water for the tournament responsibly. But here you are almost suggesting that grounds and pitches are more important than people who are dying without water in the state."
Arshil Shah, who represented the petitioners, insisted the court pass an interim order to stop the IPL matches in Maharashtra until the report from the state and civic agencies is submitted. The court rejected the suggestion. "Let the report be submitted, if it shows that moving the matches out of the state will help address the water drought situation, then we shall consider," the bench said.
The judges also stated that despite the timing of the PIL, the issue of a state-wide drought cannot be ignored: "We agree that the timing of the Petitioner just days before the start of the tournament shows they may not have the best intentions at heart, but the larger issue of a state-wide drought cannot be ignored."
Overall Maharashtra is scheduled to host 20 matches in the ninth edition of the IPL. Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai will host eight matches, including the tournament opener on April 9 and the final on May 29. Nine matches have been allotted to the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune, including the Eliminator on May 25 and Qualifier 2 on May 27, while three matches will be played at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, designated as home games for Kings XI Punjab.
Raunak Kapoor is a presenter at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @RaunakRK