The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), Board of Cricket Control India (BCCI) and civic bodies must provide basic hygiene facilities on public grounds like toilets, drinking water and medical assistance.
A division bench of Justices AK Menon and MS Karnik observed thus while hearing a PIL filed by state and district level cricketer - Rahul Rajendra Prasad Tiwari. It directed the Maharashtra government, BMC, MCA and the BCCI to file their respective replies within two weeks, detailing how many grounds were under their jurisdiction and what facilities were made available there.
"Your next big star might come from a public ground. So many bright children are playing on public grounds," the court said.
It added that the cricket associations and civic body cannot cite lack of funds for not providing these facilities.
"These are the last organisations that can say they do not have funds. Sports have to be encouraged, not just for children but for adults as well," the bench said.
Petitioner Tiwari, who argued his own case as party in person, submitted that he was a professional district and state level player. He said that a fee is collected by the cricket association or the civic body every time a ground is booked for practice.
The fee would depend on under whose jurisdiction the ground would fall. 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, he said.
Counsels for the MCA and BCCI submitted that most public grounds were under the civic bodies. They also claimed that on several occasions the civic body would deny permission for these facilities during cricket camps.
However, the High Court sought to know instances where the associations had even applied for permission and it was denied.
"Have you ever applied and then have been denied permission? File an affidavit," the High Court told the MCA and the BCCI.
The High Court said that this was not an adversarial litigation and India's next big cricket star could be training in one of these grounds.
The bench observed that several children as well as adults played cricket and other sports on public grounds and most of these grounds, whether under the control of civic bodies or cricket associations, were lacking basic facilities.
There is also an internal memorandum of both the BCCI and the MCA mandating that basic facilities be provided at training camps, or such spots where a game of cricket was on, to "encourage cricket."