Forget being the backup venue for the India-Pakistan World Twenty20 match in Dharamsala, Delhi may lose out on hosting any matches at all.
On Thursday, the Delhi High Court vacated its own stay order on the demolition of the RP Mehra Block, popularly known as the Old Club House, at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium. This has thrown the 10 World T20 matches scheduled to be held at the venue into jeopardy.
The Kotla stands right next to the Archaeological Survey of India-protected Ferozeshah Kotla ruins, with the distance between the Old Club House and the outer wall of the monument being less than 20 metres. ASI rules mandate that no building can be constructed within 100 metres of a protected monument.
The building in question houses the commentary boxes, media box, corporate hospitality, as well as offices of DDCA staff and the groundsman and pitch curator, and is thus crucial to the organisation of any match.
The stay order was vacated by a bench of Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw. The bench dismissed the Delhi and District Cricket Association's application seeking to restore its 1997 petition that had sought a No-Objection Certificate from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for the structure, which had been denied clearance by the ASI.
Advocate Tanuj Khurana, representing petitioner and DDCA member NC Bakshi, told Catch: "The court dismissed the DDCA's restoration petition today. The only option before the DDCA is to go to Supreme Court."
The DDCA could move the Supreme Court either on Friday or a few days later.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Rohini said the DDCA could not "live from match to match" and that it could hold ICC World Twenty20 matches after demolishing the RP Mehra Block, which is within 100 metres of the 'Kotla Baoli'.
"You (DDCA) cannot live from match to match. This is your practice. You demolish and hold a match. It is not a matter of restoration. We do not find any reason," the bench said. "You [DDCA] demolish this and hold the match. If it is unauthorised, it has to go. It was held unauthorised and you have kept this pending since 1997. The 1997 writ petition was dismissed twice in default."
Bakshi, an old DDCA member, had filed the original petition against "illegal construction" in 1995-96, when the renovation of the Ferozeshah Kotla was starting.
"After today's court order, can the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC), the ASI and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) give no-objection certificates to the DDCA to organise the ICC World Twenty20 matches this month?" asked Bakshi, while speaking to Catch.
The DDCA is awaiting NOCs from these government agencies to organise the matches between March 15 and 30. The body is already in hot water on many fronts, including serious corruption charges, and the organisation of the World Twenty20 matches is being overseen by the court-appointed Justice Mukul Mudgal.
If the matches are eventually cancelled, it will pose a gigantic challenge to both the ICC and the BCCI to relocate the matches to other venues.
The India-Pakistan match of the World Twenty20, scheduled to be played in Dharamsala, is already in doubt after the Congress party government in Himachal Pradesh said it was not in a position to provide security to host the match.
Interestingly, soon after the bench of Rohini and Endlaw dismissed DDCA's application, a report of Justice Mudgal came up before a bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru.
Mudgal said he favoured granting of occupancy certificates to DDCA to hold matches at the Kotla.
As the bench had become aware of the other bench's order, Justice Muralidhar posted the matter for 8 March.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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