Monday, February 13, 2012

Recreation clubs entitled to lawful activities: HC

The Madurai bench of the Madras high court on Friday said that members of recreation clubs are entitled to carry on lawful activities within their premises and there should not be any interference from the police.

Justice K K Sasidharan gave the ruling while allowing a writ petition filed by Mullai Recreation Club seeking to forbear the police from interfering with the rights of the its members who played 'rummy' without betting.

In its petition, the club, situated at Thankkankulam said it was aggrieved because of the unnecessary intrusion caused by the police inspector, Thirunagar, into their activities when its members have been playing rummy which is a game of skill.

"The club never indulged in acts of playing cards using money or other illegal acts. The police inspector started to visit the club very frequently and his visit affected the smooth functioning of the club. The regular visit of the inspector caused apprehension in the minds of members," it contended. Hence, the club preferred the present petition.

The police stated that one Friends Club was functioning in the very same premises. The said club was involved in illegal activities and it resulted in the registration of a case in which an accused was also convicted.

Allowing a petition filed by the club, Justice Sasidharan gave a detailed direction that "In normal, circumstances, there should be no interference in the lawful functioning of the clubs by the police. It is not permissible for the police to enter the club premises as a routine measure, so long as the clubs are functioning within the frame work of law."

However, the judge said if the police authorities have specific information or reasonable doubt that the activities carried on by the club or its members are not in accordance with law or they indulge in unlawful activities, in violation of the provisions of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 or Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, or any other enactment,

they can enter the club premises and conduct investigation. interrogate those who involve themselves in such activities and take appropriate action on merits and as per law.

The judge said it is always open to the club or its members to challenge the action taken by the police, if it was not in accordance with law.

Justice Sasidharan further said, "In case the police authorities were of the opinion that a situation has arisen to suspend to the operation of the club in the exercise of the powers conferred, they have to issue an order in writing. When there is no authority granted to the police to issue an order of suspension orally, they are not entitled to pass such oral orders."

The judge added that before orders for the purpose of closure of the club, in exercise of powers conferred on the authorities, they should follow the principles of natural justice. The club should be given an opportunity to submit their objections and if so desired, a further opportunity of personal hearing should also be given.

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