Some of the members of Bengaluruâ€™s clubs see the bill drafted by the Siddaramaiah government allowing membership in the clubs for elected members as a clear breach of rights.
The Karnataka Entry into Public Places (Removal of Restriction on Dress and Regulation of Membership and Fee) Bill, 2015, seeks to regulate the functioning of the clubs by imposing changes to their rules. If it is passed as a law, then the state would gain considerable control on the clubs â€“ starting from the membership fees they collect to providing membership to elected representatives and the dress codes followed by the clubs.
Santosh Hegde, former Lokayukta and former president of Bangalore Club is one of the strongest opponents of such a move by the government, he lists the reasons why he thinks such a bill is dangerous.
What is the public interest here?
â€śWhat is the public interest in pushing such a Bill to demand entry for elected representatives?
Hegde said, â€śThere wonâ€™t be an end to it. If they are able to push the bill for an elected representative to gain entry, tomorrow it will be another entity.â€ť
Hegde insists that Bangalore Club and other clubs do have elected representatives as members. "If one needs a membership, there are certain rules and it is for the committee to decide whether one should be allotted membership. Clubs cannot keep their doors open for every person,â€ť He added.
Against the spirit of an association
Article 19 of the Indian constitution gives every citizen the right to form an association and the bill against the spirit of the constitution says Hegde.
â€śAn elected representative cannot just walk into the association. That would be infiltrating the fundamental right to form the association,â€ť says Hegde.
Hegde said that if a member acts contrary to the public opinion or contrary to the law then they can make a law.
â€śHowever, it is unfair to make a law for the private interest of elected representative,â€ť he said.
Attack on dress code a smokescreen
The move to draft a bill first started as an opposition to Bangalore clubs dress code that does not allow dhoti for men. Legislators have also claimed that clubs were not giving memberships to armed forces personnel and sportsperson, so the bill was necessary.
"All the three are just excuses. A dress-code is an understanding between the members. If they donâ€™t want it we will have a meeting on it, and solve the problem among ourselves. Attacking the dress code and demanding entry for ex-servicemen and sportsmen is only a smokescreen for a backdoor entry," he said.
Years ago, there was the Bangalore United Services Club for armed forces which was merged with the Bangalore Club.
â€śWe have the Army Chief in Bengaluru and the Chief of Air Force in Bengaluru as honorary members of the committee. There are sports people in the club too. What is the need for the bill?" asks Hegde.
Challenging the claim that a club on government land should be public property, he told that unlike Golf club, Press club that are on government land, the Bangalore club is on private land.
â€śThe government can revoke the land if the club is violating rules. But, as far as I know there is no violation so far in any of these clubs. Revoking liquor access is only a backdoor entry. Supposing there are things being done which will prick the conscience of the society , then we will take a call. But, they canâ€™t say let me also join the club,â€ť he said.
This will be just a beginning he warns
Santosh Hegde believes such an act by elected representatives will open the floodgates for more such 'atrocious' steps in the future.
"If they can do it to a private club today, they can do to any private entity tomorrow. If someone builds a beautiful house, the legislature can pass a bill allowing elected representatives to live there," he says.