Relief for Delhi: HC nod for WT20 games, but illegal stand shut to crowd & VIPs

Relief for Delhi: HC nod for WT20 games, but illegal stand shut to crowd & VIPs

What happened earlier?

  • Last week, the Delhi High Court had vacated a stay order on the demolition of an illegal building at the Ferozeshah Kotla
  • It said the DDCA couldn't host matches till the RP Mehra Block was torn down, putting the World T20 matches in jeopardy

What happened now?

  • The HC says a competent authority (in this case, the SDMC) can permit the matches to go ahead
  • The SDMC has already given a no-objection certificate to the DDCA
  • However, only media and broadcasters can use the building, not spectators

More in the story

  • The building in question houses VIP boxes - where will they go?

It was a bittersweet day for Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) on Tuesday, courtesy the Delhi High Court.

On the one hand, there was the joy that Delhi would not lose out on the ICC World Twenty20 matches it is scheduled to host this month. But on the other, the beleaguered association would not be able to sell tickets for about 1,800 seats in "illegally constructed" RP Mehra Block (Old Club House) at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium.

"No tickets for the RP Mehra Block should be sold for spectators for the 10 ICC World Twenty20 matches, to be played this month. The DDCA has been informed by retired Justice Mukul Mudgal, who has been appointed by the Delhi High Court to supervise the matches," DDCA sources told Catch.

Read: Delhi in jeopardy as World T20 venue, HC vacates stay order on Kotla demolition

On Tuesday, Mudgal's counsel suggested to the High Court Bench, comprising justices S Muralidhar and Vibhu Bakhru, that the RP Mehra Block could be used only for the media and not for commercial purpose during the World Twenty20 matches.

"There are approximately 1,800 seats in the RP Mehra Block and tickets for this building will not be sold. But the media, including the official broadcasters, commentators and print media, will be allowed to use the building," said one of the sources in the DDCA.

The bench, however, declined to pass an order on demolition or otherwise of the RP Mehra Block.

"The bench neither passed an order on its demolition, nor stayed it. It said 'we are neither declining or granting permission for the match[es]'. It said it is for the competent authorities to decide," Harish Malhotra, counsel for senior DDCA member NC Bakshi, told Catch.

On March 3, a bench comprising Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, while hearing an old case between senior DDCA member NC Bakshi and the DDCA, dismissed the association's application seeking restoration of stay on demolition of the RP Mehra Block.

In other words, demolition of the RP Mehra Block, named after the late BCCI and DDCA president and built in the late 1990s when Arun Jaitley was DDCA president, looks imminent. DDCA, too, seems to have reconciled to this reality, and that is why it is seeking from the court time till June 30 before it would demolish the structure.

The reason behind seeking time till June 30 is clear: it wants to host the IPL matches in April-May.

The RP Mehra Block is controversial due to its proximity to the ruins of the Ferozeshah Kotla, which the Archaeological Survey of India has declared as a protected monument. This structure is barely 20 metres away from the outer wall of the ruins. ASI rules prohibit construction within 100 metres from a protected monument.

Due to litigation, the preparations for the World Twenty20 matches had been put on hold. Now, after Tuesday's order, they would begin again from Wednesday, provided the DDCA employees call of their strike over various demands, including bonus and free World Twenty20 tickets etc. So far, the DDCA is concerned the next controversy could be just around the corner.

'Competent authority' to decide

Tuesday's hearing was, in fact, in an old case related to taxation of the Kotla stadium between the DDCA South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). But when the NC Bakshi intervened, the bench said that the issue of demolition of the RP Mehra Block could be decided by a competent authority.

In this case, the competent authority is the SDMC, which, on Monday, gave a no-objection certificate to the DDCA for the stadium, but not for the RP Mehra Block, triggering speculations of all types.

Only commentators, broadcasters and the print media will be allowed to enter the RP Mehra Block

Bakshi had filed the case against the 'illegal block', claiming that there was no sanctioned plan for the RP Mehra Block, or the Old Club House, when work on renovation of the stadium started in 1995-96. Since then, the case has been going on, and it now look imminent the controversial Old Club House would finally be demolished.

Where will VIPs go?

Tuesday's development has thrown up a few problems for DDCA officials. The RP Mehra Block also houses the BCCI President's Box, besides enclosures for VIPs and high-end galleries, and the commentary and press boxes.

Also read: Dharamsala's loss may be Delhi's gain; India-Pak World T20 game set to move

"Now, we will have to adjust all the guests of the International Cricket Council, the BCCI and the DDCA somewhere else in the stadium," said a DDCA official, after receiving directions from Mudgal.

The guest list of the three organisations, particularly the ICC, is a long one, as the game's world body gives complimentary tickets to its sponsors and others.

Gymnasium problem

It's not only the VIPs and other dignitaries who will have to be relocated elsewhere, but the DDCA officials face perhaps a bigger problem -the gymnasium that is on the ground floor of the RP Mehra Block and which players often use during international matches.

Since the DDCA will be hosting 10 ICC World Twenty20 matches, it could be a tricky situation if the gymnasium also becomes out of bound for players.

"Well, we haven't taken any decision about that. We don't want any commercial use [of the RP Mehra Block], that's all," Mudgal told Catch. "I haven't thought about that as yet. I will think about it. The idea is not to sell tickets of that area."

Apart from the gymnasium, the RP Mehra Block also houses the accounts section of the DDCA besides the rooms of a couple of DDCA office-bearers.

Gloomy mood

The mood on Tuesday evening at the Kotla was gloomy and despondent.

"They [DDCA officials] are not in a good mood, that's why we are sitting here outside. The reason is that there would be no sale of tickets for the RP Mehra Block, and that is a huge embarrassment for them," said a DDCA functionary who can usually be found inside one of the administrators' rooms.

The next hearing in the case is on April 1.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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