Terming the drought in Maharashtra a “serious issue”, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday said it will look into the matter while hearing a PIL against use of water for maintaining cricket pitches prior to the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.

Besides, another similar PIL, filed in the high court on Tuesday by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, sought a direction to the IPL Commissioner to pay tax on water, as about 60,000 litres per day would be required to maintain the pitches.

A division bench headed by Justice VM Kanade was hearing the PIL filed by NGO ‘Loksatta Movement’, challenging the use of water to maintain pitches at three stadiums in the State, which will hold IPL matches.

The BCCI do not want to shift matches from Maharashtra. PTI

The High Court posted the PIL for hearing on Wednesday.

According to the petition, the State is reeling under a drought and acute water shortage as levels in dams and lakes have gone down.

“There is already a scarcity of drinking water and water for sanitation purposes, and the State authorities are turning a blind eye,” the petition said.

It said that under the Maharashtra State Water policy, the government has prioritised use of water, and usage of water for recreation and other purposes comes last in the priority list.

The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) on Tuesday told the High Court that tickets for the IPL matches have been already sold, and a huge loss would be incurred if the matches are cancelled.

The court sought responses from all respondents, including the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Vidarbha Cricket Association, Maharashtra government, and the civic bodies of Mumbai and Nagpur. Meanwhile, in his petition, Tirodkar sought an undertaking from State government that it would supply 1,000 litres of water per day to each family of drought-hit districts till monsoon arrives.

Champions of IPL 2015 Mumbai Indians play at the Wankhede. PTI

“The IPL Commissioner should be asked to pay tax of Rs 1,000 per litre for meeting expenses of supplying water to the drought-affected district,” said the PIL.

The IPL tournament is set to begin from April 9, with the first match to be played in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. A total of 20 matches will be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.

The final of the tournament, scheduled on May 29, will also be held at Wankhede Stadium. Maharashtra has been facing acute shortage of water for the past two decades. The gravity of the situation is evident with 3,228 farmer suicides being recorded across the State in 2015, Tirodkar’s PIL said.

The High Court has already taken suo motu cognisance of the drought situation leading to suicides by farmers in the State, the petitioner said.

“It is in the backdrop of this scenario that one fails to see a welfare State holding IPL cricket league matches in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune and elsewhere in the State,” the petition said.

Quoting statistics from the records available with the authorities, the petition said that in 2013, about 65 lakh litre water was used at three stadiums: Wankhede in Mumbai, DY Patil in Navi Mumbai, and Sahara stadium in Pune.

Feature image source: AFP