Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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The fate of Delhi as the venue for the fourth Test between India and South Africa continues to hang in the balance after the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) approached the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, seeking permission to stage the match.
Last week, the BCCI had set November 17 as the deadline for the DDCA to obtain all necessary clearances from the government agencies in order to host the Test. A two-judge divisional bench, however, adjourned the hearing to tomorrow, when a final decision is expected.
The BCCI president Shashank Manhoar said the board will finalise the venue for the Test by Wednesday. "Wait till tomorrow morning. They have been given time till today [Tuesday] evening. So their time has not expired," Manohar said. One reason the BCCI is not too worried even if the court rules against the DDCA is that Pune has already been picked as a back-up venue.
Over the last week, the DDCA's top brass - the acting president Chetan Chauhan , vice-president CK Khanna and treasurer Rajeev Manchanda - has been desperately knocking on various doors, from the Delhi government to the local civic bodies, seeking the various clearances needed for the Feroz Shah Kotla to host the Test.
Their hopes suffered a jolt on Tuesday morning after the Delhi government's three-member panel recommended the suspension of DDCA as an immediate step to clear allegations of corruption and malpractices within the association, charges headed by former India captain Bishen Bedi.
Undeterred, the DDCA approached the High Court filing a plea to be granted a provisional occupancy clearance from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), and to also relax the deadline in order to resolve the heavy entertainment tax amounting to Rs 24.46 crore slapped on them by the Delhi excise department.
According to Sunil Mittal, the DDCA's legal counsel, the move to the court was necessitated after the MCD denied the clearance on Monday evening. As a counter, the MCD's counsel told the court that despite various reminders starting from 2008, the DDCA had failed to obtain a completion certificate. He also told the court that the DDCA had sought the court's intervention for the last six years. The court asked why the MCD was reluctant to grant the clearance, with the MCD counsel saying the only reason the DDCA had been allowed to conduct matches in the past was because of the court's intervention.
The judges - Justices BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva - asked Mittal why the DDCA had waited to approach the MCD till the eve of the BCCI deadline. Mittal told the court that the DDCA had applied to the MCD on October 10 for the provisional occupancy, and cited the fact that the MCD had given similar clearances in the past on five occasions.
However, the MCD counsel explained to the court that a completion certificate could not be granted since the DDCA had not obtained the clearances from the Land and Urban Development Authority, Fire and Safety department, Archaeological Survey of India, and the Delhi Urban Authority.
Mittal said that all the pending clearances the DDCA needed would be sorted by March 31 next year, failing which the DDCA was willing to give an undertaking they would pay Rs 1 crore to the MCD.
The court hearing, which ran for less than an hour, witnessed some drama after one of the most vocal opponents of DDCA, former India player Kirti Azad, stood up and objected to the Test being held in Delhi, alleging deep-seated corruption in the DDCA. The court heard Azad but refused to entertain his remarks because they was not related to the hearing.
Although Mittal sought a decision today, the court adjourned the hearing until Wednesday afternoon considering it wanted to hear the response of the excise department counsel too.