Ruling passed 21 years ago said clubs need not take licence from police

Even after 21 years after the Karnataka High Court ruled that recreational associations/clubs are not required to obtain licence under the Karnataka Police Act, the High Court is flooded with petitions every year complaining of police “harassment”. An average of 300 petitions are filed every year by recreational associations/clubs from across the State complaining that the police were “harassing and forcing” them to obtain licence under the Licensing and Controlling of Places of Public Entertainment/Amusement Order promulgated under by the Karnataka Police Act.

Interestingly, for every petition filed since 1993, the court has been reproducing the earlier order, which states: “The police are restrained from insisting on licence or interfering with lawful activities of associations/clubs as they are not places of public entertainment/amusement but restricted only to its registered members, and as they do not conduct any game of chance or gambling.”

However, the court has given the police powers to initiate action as per law if associations/clubs indulge in unlawful or immoral activities.

Advised caution

Besides the 1993 verdict, the court, in its November 2000 verdict, had cautioned the police against interfering in conduct of genuine recreational or skilled games in the guise of surveillance and check.

The court also wondered why the police termed rummy as a “game of chance”, despite a Supreme Court ruling in 1968, which said that it was “not a game of chance” when it does not involve betting.

The former State Public Prosecutor H.S. Chandramouli told The Hindu that “unwarranted” action by the police was burdening the court with “unnecessary litigations”. He pointed out that he had written many letters to the Police Department advising them not to insist on licence but register an FIR or issue notice for closure of associations/clubs if found indulging in unlawful activities.

This year, the High Court has issued similar directions in around 80 cases of the150 petitions filed by associations/clubs.

Time granted

Meanwhile, the High Court on Tuesday granted three weeks time to the State government to file its response to a fresh batch of petitions filed by some recreational associations and clubs complaining that the police are “preventing” them from functioning.

They have questioned the guidelines issued by the State government on September 12, 2013 for the places of public amusements. It says that places of “public” amusements like clubs, theatres, race course, music halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools should take police permission for operating.

The petitioners said that the guidelines cannot be made applicable to them as the court has already held that they are not “public” places of amusements but restricted only to members.

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