In a big blow to BCCI, the Bombay High Court today ordered shifting of all IPL 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.
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 CM’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.
The order came on a 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 said.
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 finals on May 29 in Mumbai.
Earlier in the day, 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. BCCI had yesterday agreed to shift three matches out of Nagpur.
BCCI counsel Rafiq Dada today 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.
Reacting to the court order, the BCCI today said the cash-rich league is being targeted unfairly and it won’t be easy to move out games midway through the tournament.
IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla said: “Organising the IPL is a gigantic work. It’s not easy. All preparations had been done, completed. Now shifting the matches will be a problem.”
“So far, we have not got the written order, after we get that, we will study the order and work out an alternative plan. We always respect the court. We need to talk to other franchises. Out of 19 matches in Maharashtra, 13 have to be moved out, we will have to work it out,” added Rajeev Shukla.
BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur said there was an attempt to create negativity around the league.