It will now have to appoint Information Officer and respond to RTI queries

In what is being hailed as a landmark order, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has held that the Bangalore Golf Club (BGC) off Sankey Road is a public authority. As a result, the club will have to appoint a Public Information Officer whose job will be to respond to queries about its functioning under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

KIC took note of a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that the 60 acres and 15 guntas on which the golf club is situated is owned by the government and leased out to it at hugely concessional rates.

The golf club paid Rs.100 per annum (Rs. 0.13 per acre) as rent to the government between 1971 and 1984. Between 1985 and 1991, it paid Rs. 5,000 a year (Rs. 6.89 per acre). Since 1992, it has been paying Rs.10,000 a year or Rs. 13.79 per acre per year.

The CAG report said that on account of these concessional rates, the State exchequer lost revenue to the tune of Rs. 630.94 crore between April 1, 2003 and March 31, 2008.

The verdict

Reacting to these figures, the KIC noted: “There is no doubt that the leasing of the premises was at the most nominal and concessional rates. Further, though the Bangalore Golf Club does not have any public purpose or involving of charitable or non-commercial aspects, the Commission inclines to take notice of the concessional rate of rents…and hereby decides that the club is a public authority.”

Info denied

KIC’s decision was in response to a complaint filed by lawyer S. Umapathi who had sought some information under RTI about the Golf Club’s financial transactions but was denied it by the institution’s authorities who said that they were not a public authority to respond to RTI queries.

According to informed sources, KIC’s order will have far-reaching ramifications as there are several such private clubs that have been leased out prime government land at shockingly subsidised rates.

Lawyer and activist T. Narasimhamurthy, who represented the complainant said: “This is a landmark verdict and we will soon file similar cases against other clubs that remain exclusive despite using public resources.”

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