‘Subsidised memberships to Army cost Turf Club Rs 16 crore’
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Bhog has filed a civil suit alleging RWITC committee members acted against the interest of the club while executing two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), one in 1997 and the other in 2000, facilitating membership of ex-servicemen at subsidised rates resulting in a loss of Rs 16 crore to the club.
In his suit filed in the court of civil judge senior division, Pune, Bhog has tried to substantiate his arguments by attaching a certified copy of the 1907 lease deed — the governing document on which is based the land holding and which was the bone of contention between RWITC and the LMA — besides the two MoUs executed on August 14, 1997 and August 5, 2000. He has tried to back his arguments citing non-adherence to provisions of the Companies Act and Cantonment Laws, besides other rules.
According to the 1997 MoU, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, RWITC membership was extended to 225 ex-servicemen against a security deposit of Rs 5,000. The 2000 MoU says, "The RWITC undertakes to give permanent local membership of the Turf Club House Pune for 300 retired Army officers as well as serving officers recommended by HQ, Southern Command on terms and conditions laid in the articles of association of the club. Fees for such membership will be; an entrance fee Rs 2,500, and an annual subscription Rs 3,600." The MoUs bear signatures of RWITC committee members and LMA members.
Bhog, calling these MoUs illegal, cited a 2009 RTI application to buttress his claims. "According to the RTI reply, the LMA is not authorised to demand any charitable favours from a club. Thus, the LMA acted outside their purview in demanding memberships for ex-servicemen at concessional rates. When membership was extended to ex-servicemen at Rs 5,000, the charges for civilians were about Rs 5 lakh, later increased to Rs 10 lakh. This resulted in a loss of Rs 16 crore to the club. As per the Companies Act, under which RWITC is supposed to function, the board of directors/ committee members should have presented the matter to general meeting before taking decisions that cost the club a whopping Rs 16 crore. I am a member of the club and the matter has never been put in front of the general meeting. Thus, the committee members who signed the MoUs acted against law," Bhog told The Indian Express.
According to what Bhog calls a certified copy of the 1907 Indenture Deed, which he has attached to the petition, land measuring 111.5 acres has been leased out to RWITC. The acreage has also been written in words. The Army's copy of the lease deed on the other hand shows the land to be 11.5 acres. When contacted, K N Dhunjibhoy, chairman, RWITC said, "I am in a meeting, call after one hour." In repeated attempts to contact him later, Dhunjibhoy disconnected the call. A written message to him was not replied to. A senior LMA official said, "The LMA has yet not received a copy of the suit."
On Tuesday when the LMA, the Government of India and RWITC were to file their replies in court, it was learnt that the RWITC had asked for time to file their reply. The LMA was not represented in court.
In a written communication with this paper, HQ, Southern Command, said, "Issues raised by Mr Bhog have all been part of the legal case filed by RWITC against Army Authorities regarding the said lease deed. Based on the Army's representations before the Bombay High Court, the RWITC has withdrawn its case and the issue has been settled amicably between RWITC and the Local Military Authority. The present case by Mr Bhog seems to be an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere and is best resolved by him and the RWITC."