The Bombay High Court today restrained the Maharashtra Cricket Association from drawing water from the Pavana river to maintain the Pune cricket stadium and held that the state government's decision permitting the association to do so was "illegal".
The MCA, for six years, has been drawing water from the Pavana river after signing an agreement with the state government. The water was used to maintain the pitch and ground of the stadium.
As per the agreement between the state government and the MCA, the water was to be used for industrial purposes.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla today said that the state government was not entitled to grant permission to the MCA for industrial purposes.
"We are shocked to note that for a period of six years, the state government has allowed the MCA to draw water from the Pavana river for industrial purposes when admittedly the MCA is not running any industry. The water is being used for the stadium," the court said in its order.
"The government's action violates the principles of equitable distribution. The government is a trustee of water available in rivers," it said.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by an NGO, 'Loksatta Movement', in 2016 raising concerns over water usage for ground management during the IPL when the state was reeling in drought.
The state government's action is contrary to its water policy which is divided into five categories on the basis of priority, the court said.
As per the government's water policy, supply of water for drinking and agricultural purposes falls in the first category, supply of water for recreation purposes falls under the second last category and the supply of water for events such as 'Shahi Snan' and others fall in the last category.
The court, in its order, noted that cricket matches, including the IPL tournament, would fall in the category of recreation.
The court accepted the statement of the Mumbai Cricket Association, which manages the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, that it would not be seeking any additional water supply from the BMC for ground maintenance during the IPL matches this year.
It also accepted the affidavit filed by the BMC stating that there will not be any additional water supply to the Wankhede stadium for the IPL tournament.