The Punjab and Haryana high court has stayed the orders of the Army Golf Club, Kharga Environmental Park and Training Area (KEPTA) in Ambala Cantonment, which bars its permanent civilian members from entering the club premises by restricting them to the golf course only.
Taking up a petition filed by 22 civilian permanent members of the golf club, including 2002 Asian Games player Manav Das of Ambala Cantonment, justice Ritu Bahri stayed the orders converting status of these members from “permanent civilian members” to “civilian golfers (with) playing privileges only” issued on August 2 last year.
The court issued notices of motion to Kharga Environmental Park and Training Area, Central government; general officer commanding of headquarters, Western Command, Chandimandir; and general officer commanding of 2 Corps.
Earlier maintained by The Sirhind Club, Ambala, Kharga Golf Club came under the management of the army in 1972 and started granting membership to civilians.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Puneet Bali argued that Kharga Golf Club authorities had passed such orders arbitrarily even when the petitioners were permanent members of the club for the past decade.
He submitted that the petitioners had never violated any terms of the bylaws or defaulted on account of disobedience or of non-payment of monthly subscription etc.
The counsel submitted that as per the new bylaws, petitioners have been put in the category where they only have playing rights and cannot use club facilities.
Also, playing rights do not include reciprocal membership of other clubs affiliated with KEPTA like Chandimandir Golf Club and playing rights do not include participation in tour naments organised by other clubs as member of Kharga Environmental Park and Training Area.
Bali added that after scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General ( CAG) of India, it emerged that the golf club authorities were grossly misusing the revenue earned from offering memberships to civilians and not crediting the same to the government account.
In the light of these facts and the sole objective to divert the objections raised by Comptroller and Auditor Genera , the authorities rechristened all the Army Golf Clubs as Army Environmental Parks and Training Areas.
Alleging bias against civilian members, the petitioners submitted that rights of civilian members have been restricted despite the fact that they were paying security charges and monthly subscription much more than their army counterparts and other serving officers.