“Your next big star could come from public land,” the Bombay High Court told the BCCI, Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) and state authorities on Monday, saying the bodies must provide basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water and medical assistance in public places.
A bench of judges Anil Menon and MS Karnik said several children as well as adults were playing cricket and other sports on public grounds across the state. Most of these grounds, whether under the control of civic bodies or cricket associations, lacked basic facilities.
This is despite the fact that the internal memoranda of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the MCA required basic facilities to be provided at training camps, or places where a cricket match was taking place, for “to encourage cricket”. The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Bombay HC lawyer Rahul Tiwari.
Tiwari, who appeared as a party in person (he represented himself in the case), told HC that he himself was a professional cricketer and had participated in various state and district level tournaments. “When one reserves public land for practice, one is required to pay a fee to the civic body or sports association under whose jurisdiction the land falls,” he said. “But, most of these grounds, even where professional cricket camps are held, don’t have access to potable water or player-useable toilets,” he said.
Lawyers for MCA and BCCI, however, told the HC that most public lands in the state are under the jurisdiction of municipal bodies. They further stated that even in cases where they held camps or practiced matches, permission to provide basic facilities was often denied by the civic or state authorities concerned. But, the HC bench said such a statement was not acceptable.
“Have you ever applied and been denied permission? File an affidavit,” HC told MCA and BCCI. “This is not adversarial litigation, because you could get your next star on public land. So many bright kids are playing on public grounds,” the bench said. The court also said that the cricket associations and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) could not cite lack of funds as a reason for not providing basic facilities.
“These are the last organizations that can say they have no funds,” the HC said. “Sport should be encouraged, not only for children but also for adults,” he said. The HC said the Maharashtra government, BMC, MCA and BCCI must file their respective affidavits within two weeks, detailing the number of grounds under their jurisdiction and the facilities that have been made available there.