The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to stay the inaugural match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on 9 April. The case arises from a public interest litigation asking for the matches to be either cancelled or moved elsewhere in view of the drought in parts of Maharashtra.
A division bench of the high court scheduled the next hearing in the matter to 12 April, asking the Maharashtra government to submit details on the source of water that would be used in the three stadiums in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur for coming IPL matches in the state.
On 9 April, defending champions Mumbai Indians take on the new franchisee Rising Pune Supergiants in the inaugural encounter. The next IPL match is at the Wankhede Stadium on 16 April, between Mumbai Indians and another new franchisee Gujarat Lions.
Loksatta Movement, a Mumbai-based NGO, has through a public interest litigation (PIL) requested the court to move IPL matches out of Maharashtra because of the severe drought that has hit many parts of the state.
The PIL says the eight IPL matches to be played at the Wankhede Stadium during the 2016 edition would use up nearly 6 million litres of water for ground maintenance. However, the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has put this figure at 4 million litres.
The division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and M.S. Karnik on Wednesday asked the BCCI, the Maharashtra government, and the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) if the IPL matches were “more important than people”. The court asked the BCCI why the matches could not be moved out of the state to a place where water is available.
The court also asked the BCCI and MCA to respond on Thursday. The BCCI, represented by law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, told the court that it was difficult to cancel the IPL matches since tickets had already been sold. BCCI counsel also told the court that Mumbai has not been hit by drought and the city’s water supply demand was being met by the municipal authorities.
Three cities in Maharashtra including Mumbai are scheduled to host 20 IPL matches this season. Pune and Nagpur will host 9 and 3 fixtures respectively. In all three cities, the municipal authorities started a 15-20% cut in regular water supply in March.
A spokesperson for the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation said, “The city has been suffering a 15% water cut since August last year which means we are getting 3,275 million litres per day (mld) as against the demand of 4,200 mld. As compared to the last year’s storage on Thursday, the seven reservoirs which supply to Mumbai have 1 lakh million litres stock less, which may mean even more cuts in May.”
The PIL points out that the water scarcity has created social tensions in parts of Maharashtra, particularly Marathwada. In Latur and Parbhani towns of Marathwada, the government has had to impose prohibitory orders banning a gathering of more than five people.