Commercial exploitation: Nagpur’s high-profile clubs in trouble

HC directs Collector to recover profits earned by these clubs from commercial activities

Nagpur: The high-profile clubs including Gondwana, CP, Ladies, Maharajbagh, Officers and YMCA could find themselves in trouble as the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has directed the District Collector to probe whether these clubs were permitted to allow commercial activities on their premises as per their lease deeds. The Court further directed the Collector to see how the profits earned by the clubs could be recovered If they have violated the lease deeds, according to a media report.

The report said that the Division Bench comprising Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Anil Kilor asked the District Collector to file a detailed reply on whether the lease conditions permitted these clubs to exploit their premises for such commercial activities. If not, then how the government is contemplating to recover a portion of profits earned by the club management out of it, the report stated.

Earlier, amicus curiae Shreerang Bhandarkar pointed out that the top clubs in the city were given lands for charitable purposes at throwaway prices. But all these clubs were exploiting it for commercial gains and the poor, common people were not allowed there. He said that these clubs offer membership to citizens at a huge premium, thus defeating the purpose for which land was allotted to them. “These clubs even allow their premises to be let out for various events such as marriages, exhibitions and other functions, and charge hefty rent from the customers, but do not pass any profits to the government coffers,” Bhandarkar asserted

The amicus curiae further while quoting the report of a panel that probed into the affairs of these clubs along with other charitable, educational and cultural organisations, which were set up on Nazul lands in prime areas offered on lease to them, said that a majority of them had breached the lease conditions and brazenly exploited their properties, mainly due to inaction by the authorities.

The media report further stated that the committee, headed by Bhandarkar and comprising a Chartered Accountant Suren Durugkar and Collector’s representative Rajesh Pethe, had recommended stern action against these erring clubs and recovering a portion of profits earned by them through commercial activities.

As per the directives of the High Court, the committee conducted its investigations based on affidavits filed by respective clubs, their audited balance sheets and original documents. Shockingly, the majority of these establishments had shown either meagre profits or losses in their audit reports filed in the District Collector’s office.