After the Bombay high court, on Friday, dismissed the Oval Cooperage Residents Association’s argument that the construction of a football stadium with a clubhouse at the Cooperage ground would infringe on their right to life, the Western India Football Association (WIFA) assured the court that everybody will be allowed access to the Cooperage football stadium, for playing football.
Even though the clubhouse will be accessible only to WIFA members, the stadium will be available for the public to play football “throughout the year with only exception of days on which football matches are held there,” WIFA told the court. And, the remaining ground will be open for residents for recreation.
The residents association counsel Gautam Patel had contended that the right to public open spaces and access to recreational grounds is an integral part of right to life, and allowing a stadium at Cooperage would violate the fundamental right of city residents. He also argued that cities require 4 acres of open spaces for every 1,000 residents, but Mumbai has just 0.03 acre of open spaces per 1,000 people as against 4.84 acres in London and 5.33 acres in New York.
The division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice DG Karnik, however, found the argument unsatisfactory. “A mere reference to statistics as to open spaces in London and in New York and other cities of the world vis-à-vis open spaces in Mumbai can’t be a ground to strike down the building permission and development of any open space,” the bench observed.
The Cooperage stadium, which is in a dilapidated state, with the main stands considered to dangerous to accommodate spectators lost out on all the home matches of three I-League teams from the city after the All India Football Federation decided to move the matches to Kolhapur this year.
WIFA CEO Henry Menezes welcomed the courts decision and said the organisation would move on a war footing to re-develop the stadium.
“It is a very good news for football fans in the city. Today’s order will finally allow us to build a state-of-art stadium here which can host national and international matches,” he said.