The Supreme Court upheld on Wednesday the Bombay high court’s order throwing a dozen Indian Premier League (IPL) matches out of drought-hit Maharashtra this May.
The high court had allowed one match to be played in the state on May 1.
The matches were moved out after widespread outrage over wastage of water in maintaining cricket stadium and pitches when vast swathes of the state are grappling with drought and a scorching heatwave.
“We see no merits in the contention raised,” a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said, dismissing the Mumbai Cricket Association and Maharashtra Cricket Association’s appeals against the high court order.
In their plea, the cricket associations said it will not waste potable water but use treated sewage water to maintain cricket pitches.
The bench initially appeared inclined to allow the matches under strict conditions. It told senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and P Chidambaram that the court will order disconnection of municipal water supply to stadiums hosting IPL matches.
The court said a retired judge will be appointed as commissioner who along with a police officer “shall see to it that not a drop of potable water is used” during the matches.
Singhvi said his client, the Mumbai Cricket Association, had offered to use treated sewage water to maintain the outfield. For the pitch, he said, the organisers will use 10 to 12 buckets of water not fit from drinking. Similarly, he promised, non-potable water will be used in the toilets.
Challenging the high court verdict, Singhvi said the court had disallowed the matches on the ground it cannot police water usage.
The top court bench was not convinced with the counterpoint and advised the counsel not to get into any controversy. “You will get treated sewage, which we do not know how healthy it is. Its better you shift out,” the bench said, dismissing the petitions.
The Mumbai Cricket Association owns the Wankhade stadium in Mumbai while the Maharashtra Cricket Association looks after the Gahunje cricket stadium in Pune.
The high court’s April 13 order forced the BCCI to reschedule this season’s IPL calendar midway through the derby. The May 29 final and other matches involving Rising Pune Supergiants, defending champions Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab had to be moved out of the state.
This translated into huge financial losses for the host associations that often bank on the money generated from ticket sales and promotions during the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament.
The courts remained firm despite an assurance by the cricket board that the IPL franchises from Mumbai and Pune would contribute Rs 5 crore to the chief minister’s drought relief fund.