Social clubs have yet again come under the government’s scanner as a committee has resumed its assigned task of scrutinising alleged irregularities in these establishments, with Covid restrictions being relaxed.

The special house panel of the legislative council headed by BJP MLC N Ravikumar met on Tuesday. Its members led by the chairman called on chief minister BS Yediyurappa and apprised him about the status of its study.

“The panel could not meet regularly after it was formed during the last winter session due to the pandemic. There were only a few sittings, during which representatives of a couple of clubs deposed. Now we will speed up the operations that include spot inspections and surprise visits to clubs,” said Ravikumar.
On several occasions in the past, the government has turned the spotlight on clubs as there have been multiple complaints about their functioning and blatant violation of rules. They include bylaw deviations, illegal commercial exploitation of land and properties, violation of norms in terms of selling liquor on the premises, framing their own rules to charge exorbitant membership fee as high as Rs 25 lakh and selective issuance of membership.
After former IPS officer RP Sharma complained about liquor being served at multiple points at a century-old club in Bengaluru in 2014, the government brought in an amendment to the Karnataka Excise (Sale of Indian and Foreign liquor) Rules in 2016 that allows four counters to serve alcohol. Panel members said there are reports about this rule being flouted by many clubs.
“We have received complaints that some clubs still discriminate based on clothes and stop people at the gate if they don dhoti and chappals,” said Ravikumar.
There are 182 clubs across Karnataka registered with Federation of Clubs of Karnataka, of which 40 are in Bengaluru. Panel members said they will visit them and recommend cancellation of licence if they find any violation.
This is not the first time that the government has shown an intent to crack down on clubs for their alleged defiance. Two house committees were set up in the past, but no progress was made except for a few sittings and visits to the establishments.
Managements of many even described this as harassment as they complained that disgruntled MLAs and MLCs who failed to get membership were behind this exercise.
“I don’t call it harassment. But this is not the first time that such a house committee has been constituted and is scrutinising the functioning of clubs. While legislators are doing their job, we welcome the step. Let them punish the clubs which are violating norms,” said HS Srikanth, president of Federation of Clubs of Karnataka and secretary of Bowring Institute, St Marks Road.
On the allegation regarding commercial exploitation of land allotted by BDA, ANK Raju, ex-officio secretary of Cosmopolitan Club, Jayanagar, said: “Yes, we have rented out a portion of land to a bowling alley, departmental store and beauty parlour. But we are well within the limits of law as it allows a club to utilise 20% of land for commercial purposes.”

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