The NCLT also asked the panel to look into the utility of the land leased out by the state.

 

New Delhi: The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Friday ordered the Central government to appoint two of its nominees to the governing body of Delhi Gymkhana Club as well as set-up a five-member committee to look into the alleged “irregularities”. It also asked the committee to look into the utility of the land leased out by the state.

The NCLT further directed the general committee of the club that it shall not proceed with construction or further construction, shall not make any policy decisions, it shall not make any changes to the Memorandum of Association or Articles of Association and it shall not deal with the funds received for admission of Members and it shall not conduct balloting until further orders.

B.S.V. Prakash Kumar, the acting President of the National Company Law Tribunal, in his order, a copy of which is with The Sunday Guardian , said that the affairs of the club were being run in a manner prejudicial to the public interest while stating that even though after Independence, the caption “Imperial” was wiped off from the name of the Club, but “I doubt whether it has been wiped off from the mind-set of the club.”

The secretary of the club Ashish Khanna told The Sunday Guardian, “I totally respect the judgement and efforts for transparency by the Hon’ble NCLT. Please contact President or Chair Legal for comments.”

In the order, the NCLT stated, “I have found a prima facie case demonstrating that the affairs of the Club are being conducted in a manner prejudicial to the public interest. I hereby direct Union of India to appoint two of its nominees of its choice as Members in the General Committee to monitor the affairs of the Club along with other GC Members and give suggestions to the GC. I direct the Union of India to constitute a Special Committee with five Members of its choice to enquire into the affairs of the Club, utility of the land leased out by the State. This Bench further directs the general committee that it shall not proceed with construction or further construction on the site, it shall not make any policy decisions, it shall not make any changes to the Memorandum of Association or Articles of Association, it shall not deal with the funds received for admission of Members and it shall not conduct balloting until further orders”. The order lists the matter for further hearing on 7 September.

The order has dwelled extensively on the colonial legacy of the club and that these “discriminatory” legacies were still being practised by the club.  “Anybody can infer the club has come into existence for the then ICS officers. That time it was mostly for English to chill out in the evenings. Obviously, it is their culture; therefore they cherished their culture wherever they ruled. That’s why bar and ball rooms have come up, of course Indian kings had it in a different way. Of course, King is King, whichever country it is. After English left this country, this ruling elite culture has seeped into independent India through usage of this club, once get into, it is always relishing. It is hardly possible to come out of this kind of culture. It could be that this Club must have come into the hands of Indian Officers after English left this Country. After Independence, democracy governed by Constitution has set in. Since the democracy has become reality, this club should have left its doors ajar for many if not all, because not only has it bar and ball room and swimming pool with roof, but has wonderful library and many other sports facilities,” B.S.V. Prakash Kumar wrote in his order. Kumar also highlighted how the club, all throughout the hearing, focused on its “exclusive character”.

“… the right of forming association cannot be extendable to say that it has right to use acres of land of the state for lazing around barbing the club so that let-in to others is next to impossible. The club all through its submissions, through its counsel keeps on reminding me it is privileged club, and it is a privilege selectively given to high level officers…eminent persons, business men. The shadow over the club is it is so obsessive of its privilege. May be it is because the club is of the view that its privilege will remain intact only if people of certain stature become members.”

“Privilege and privileged are misconceived notions and they are all nothing but reminiscence of earlier legacy, which is a vanity in a democratic society. Nobody is concerned with its privilege or elite society, had the premises owned by it,” he wrote. “It is on record that soon after independence, the caption ‘Imperial’ is wiped off from the name of the Club, but I doubt whether it has been wiped off from the mind-set of the club…knowingly or unknowingly, a class of people, in the name of privilege, have erected an unbuilt wall around the club not permitting the people to have that whiff which they have been having for about decades. Given the scenario, the reason for this undying urge to become members and remaining in wait list for decades, to my reason is, this unbuilt wall erected is multiplying the urge to become members. It is like grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It is a psychological game making rounds and rounds around this Club,” the order further reads.

“So is it conscionable sitting over lands sprawling acres and acres just for recreation, when from one side people, citizens of our country, languishing in utter poverty without any basics—horrifying,” he adds.

“By seeing admission process, it appears only big people in essence those who are in top position in the government and outside the Government become members. As I said above, this club has been enjoying 27 acres of the land of the State which costs around thousands of crores. All this shows imperial behaviour and insensitiveness of the Club against the tenets of democracy. The club is sitting on the monies of the public in the name of entrance fees or registration fees, on the contrary 24×7 opening to the family members of permanent members, generation to generation, besides all this, the club enjoying 27acres of land of the state in the prime area of Lutyen’s Delhi, now after all this is seen, can it be still said that how does the club affairs matter to the public. But public, no matter whether poor or rich, paying tax on everything that is bought or sold. But resources of the country are unilaterally enjoyed by a few with different tags and captions.

“This is where public interest lies. It is coined by the petitioner as ‘parivar’ club. Especially public which has no voice, always looking at the State hoping it would take a lead for their grievance. May be it is about membership, maybe it is about the largess the Club enjoying in the prime area of Delhi just for lazing around,” the order reads.

“Running on Government owned land, is run by a coterie of people bringing in the children of permanent members and children’s children for using facilities of the club despite several members remaining outside for decades together, when Government Officer retires taking him into private members quota, and using crores of rupees collected from waitlist members as its own money, and using public property of 27 acres of land in the Lutyen’s Delhi adjacent to Prime Minister residence worth of thousands of crores on minimal annual rent of Rs. 1000 annual rent for lazing around in the evening for drinking amounts to prejudice to the public interest, all these are born out from the records, of course any interpretation could be given, but they cannot deny the fact that the club is basically for pastimes, in fact it is the case of the Respondent Club and its GC,” it states.

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