Tuesday, March 23, 2010

HC asks Turf Club to vacate

HC asks Turf Club to vacate
Bangalore, Mar 22, DHNS:

The City’s Green Brigade has won a major victory. The Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) will have to move the Race Course out of its current location by September 22, 2010, and make way for a mini forest.

Setting this six-month deadline, the Karnataka High Court bench comprising Justice V Gopala Gowda and B S Patil dismissed three petitions challenging the State Government’s ultimatum to the BTC to vacate the place once the lease term ends. After the lease term, the club will have to pay a monthly rental of Rs 5 lakh to the State till the land is handed over to the government, the court said.

Hearing a petition by the club, the BTC staff and People for Animals, the Division Bench also upheld the State’s contention not to provide the BTC an alternative land for racing activities.

The government was directed to retain it as a mini forest to compensate for the indiscriminate felling of trees during road widening works in the vicinity of the Race Course.

The Court observed: “We are hardly able to find any trees in the place which earlier appeared like a real garden city. The State, in its instrumentalities to compensate this inevitable interference with nature, can balance it at least to a small extent by planting different types of flowering trees and preserving this as a lung space. It will beautify this place and provide at least a certain extent the much needed protection of environment of the City.”

The High Court wanted the State to take this as an opportunity to create a green paradise in the City, on a par with what was done in the past, in the form of establishing Lalbagh and Cubbon Park.

Such a contribution by the State will be remembered by generations to come as a gift to residents, the court observed. The court did not want the State to put up any construction here, thus putting an end to speculations of a possible multi-storeyed building coming up here.

Directing the club to pay Rs 5 lakh per month as rent from the date of expiry of the lease till the date of delivery to the government, the bench said that the Turf Club be utilised only for the permitted activities during the next six months.

Upholding Advocate General Ashok Harnahalli’s submission regarding the alternative land, the court said: “The petitioners cannot, as a matter of right, seek alternative land for racing and allied activities.”

The court directed the State to take all measures to preserve and protect Doddajala — which had been earlier seen as an alternative site for the race course — by removing all obstructions and ensuring smooth flow of water to the tank.

The bench observed: “It is clear that the State has not applied its mind to the importance of the water body in the instant case. It is painful to observe, that such a decision to meddle with the water body has been taken without giving any serious thought to the fundamental obligation of the State and instrumentalities to preserve and protect water bodies.”

It is expected that the BTC will appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court. After the judgment, the Turf Club had an executive meeting.The BTC could ask for more time to vacate the current premises, and also request the State Government to allot new land for conducting their racing activities.

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