Golf Club loses independence, brought under RTI Act
In a decision taken by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on October 8, the Chandigarh Golf Club has been declared a public authority and brought under the ambit of Right to Information Act, 2005. Now, any individual can ask for information from the club under the said Act.chandigarh Updated: Oct 16, 2012 00:24 IST
In a decision taken by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on October 8, the Chandigarh Golf Club has been declared a public authority and brought under the ambit of Right to Information Act, 2005. Now, any individual can ask for information from the club under the said Act.
The CIC pointed out that UT administration indirectly controls the club, making it liable to be covered under the Right to Information Act. In a complaint filed by one Brig Sukhdev Singh in 2011 with the CIC, the appellant had claimed that since the club was being indirectly financed for promotion of public services by the UT administration, it should squarely be covered under the definition of 'public authority' as defined under section 2 (h) (ii) of the RTI Act, 2005. Singh has also raised objections on the rent being paid by the club, which was not at par with the prevailing commercial rates.
The order by the CIC observed that the prevailing market rates of the land could not be ignored while calculating the rent paid by the Chandigarh Golf Club and thus, the lease deed cannot be read in isolation. "The submission made by the appellant and the subsequent calculation of rent by the chief engineer (UT) clearly shows the vast differential prevailing between the monthly rental being paid by the Chandigarh Golf Club and the commercial rent that the premises could fetch in the open market as estimated by the chief engineer."
Singh had submitted that the market value of over 130 acres of land belonging to the club is Rs 1,000 crore, since the market value of land in the city varies between Rs 1.2 lakh to Rs 1.7 lakh per square yard. The club is located in a posh sector of the city, where land will be a minimum of Rs 1.6 lakh per square yard, hence bringing the total amount of the land to approximately Rs 1,022 crore.
However, the Chief Engineer (UT) while calculating the rent in April 2012 took a conservative price of Rs 6,700 per square yard, working the cost price at Rs 42.8 crore. The rent for this was assessed as Rs 3.85 crore for the land and for the building, the rent was calculated at Rs 16.18 lakh per annum. The complainant further claimed that the club was paying rent at rates worked out in 1988.
The CIC also observed in its orders that the subsidised rent given by the club could be termed as indirect financial assistance provided by the government and which can be termed as a rare privilege conferred on the said club in exclusion of others. Further strengthening the orders that the club is a public authority, the CIC said: "With the mandatory presence of government officers in the managing committee, the absence of governmental control over the functioning of the club cannot be presumed." Three serving IAS officers are nominated members of the managing committee of the club and these nominated members have full voting rights.