Observing that its next “big star” may come from the “public ground”, the Bombay High Court on Monday held that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) and state authorities must provide basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water and medical assistance at public grounds.
A bench of Justices AK Menon and MS Karnik noted that not only children, but many adults played cricket and other sports on public grounds across the state which lacked basic facilities, whether they were under the control of civic bodies or cricket associations.
The situation prevailed despite the internal memorandums of the BCCI and the MCA mandated that basic facilities be provided at training camps, or at spots where cricket was played to "encourage cricket."
The HC was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Rahul Tiwari, who was a professional cricket player and had participated in various state and district level tournaments. He said that when one books a public ground for practice, one is required to “pay a fee to the civic body or to the sports association” under whose jurisdiction the ground falls.
"But, most of these grounds, even where professional cricket camps are organised, do not have access to clean drinking water or to a toilet that can be used by players," argued Tiwari.
However, counsels for the BCCI and MCA contended that most public grounds in the state were under the jurisdiction of municipal bodies. They further contended that the civic or state bodies often denied them permission to provide basic facilities in cases where they organised camps or practice matches.
However, the judges were not convinced and asked: “Have you ever applied and then been denied permission? File an affidavit.”
"This is not adversarial litigation, for you might get your next star from the public ground. So many bright children are playing on public grounds," said justice Menon.
The court also remarked that neither the cricket associations nor the civic bodies could cite a lack of funds as a reason for not providing basic facilities. “These are the last organisations that can say they do not have funds,” Justice Menon said adding: “Sports have to be encouraged, not just for children but for adults as well.”
The HC has asked the government, BMC, MCA and the BCCI to file an affidavit in two weeks giving details of a number of playgrounds under their jurisdiction and what facilities were made available there.