Delhi Golf Club under High Court lens over membership practices 

August 07, 2023 01:51 am | Updated 01:51 am IST - NEW DELHI

As per the DGC’s website, some membership applications have been pending since 1974.

As per the DGC’s website, some membership applications have been pending since 1974. | Photo Credit: File Photo


The Delhi Golf Club, spread over prime government land covering around 179 acres in the vicinity of India Gate here, has come under the scrutiny of the Delhi High Court over its membership practices.

The elite club’s policy allowing permanent members’ children to enter as ‘dependents’ and as ‘senior dependents’ upon reaching 22 years has been called into question. The High Court termed it as “exclusionary” and said it hinders general category applicants from becoming the club’s members.

In a recent order, a Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula remarked: “This exclusivity prevents non-dependent individuals, who may be passionate golfers and willing to contribute to the development of the sport, from accessing the facilities and becoming members of the club.”

The DGC management, upon being contacted by The Hindu, declined to comment citing the legal proceedings.

Gymkhana kindred

The case bears a close resemblance to another high-profile case involving Delhi’s elite Gymkhana Club over its membership structure. In February 2021, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) allowed the Central government to take over the management of the club.

The order came after the Centre, in its plea, claimed that new applicants seeking membership for the Gymkhana Club and having paid registration fee were kept on the waiting list for more than 37 years in the non-government category and more than 15 years in the government category even as the children of permanent members sneaked in.

Long wait-list

The case against the DGC before the High Court has been initiated by Prem Nath Vasistha, a senior citizen who claims to be a golf lover.

Mr. Vasistha, who had applied for DGC membership in 2007 in the general category, fears his turn may not come during his lifetime or come when he is too old to play golf.

In his plea, Mr. Vasistha claimed that the membership policy of the DGC, established in the early 1930s, was such that an applicant from general category may have to wait for over 40 years.

Advocate Rohit Gandhi, representing Mr Vasistha, stated that the Articles of Association of the club specify a capacity of 3,000 members. Out of this, 2,100 slots are reserved for various classes and only 900 slots are available to the general public under Category C.

Of these 900 slots, 450 slots – 50% – are reserved for senior dependents, 180 slots – 20% – are reserved for government officers, and 270 slots – 30% – are reserved for individuals in the Indian business/general category.

As per the DGC’s website, there are 782 applications pending in the ‘Indian Service Category’ with the oldest dating back to July 24, 1982 and 3,189 in the ‘Indian Business Category’ with some dating back to September 21, 1974.

Prima facie violations

The plea claimed that there is neither any reservation for professional and outstanding golfers nor any selection, preferential entrance and grant of playing rights in favour of keen golfers. Non-members must also pay hefty charges for one-time use of the golf course, it said.

The court, in its July 13 order, noted that the club’s lease agreement with the government of India stated the land was allocated for promoting golf and that the reservation policy deviates from the intended objective.

This discriminatory practice, the High Court said, goes against the principles of equal opportunity and fair access to public amenities, particularly when the government land has been leased at less than market value.

The court has directed the club’s president to file an affidavit furnishing details of memberships granted in the last 10 years. The affidavit must also include the number of applications pending and the period of their pendency, it added.

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