The Bangalore Turf Club was forced to amend its Articles of Association in the year 1985 by the then government following the infamous incident relating to Govardhan and Certain Smile because the racehorse owning Stewards reportedly upheld a frivolous objection to suit their betting interests and that of the owners. The turf club had to close operations for about 55 days before the club passed the required amendment in the Special General Body.
The lopsided interpretation of the licensing condition meant that racehorse owning members were further deprived of their privileges for the ``sin of owning horses``!
There is a token representation for racehorse owners who are also members of the club and sometimes, even though two owners had been elected, one of them became ineligible because of the wrong reading of the License condition. Though owners were banned from becoming Stewards following the Amendment of the Articles of the Association, the License condition remained the same. As such, under the changed scenario 50 per cent of representation for horse owners in the committee were not possible, under the revised scheme of things, all the four committee members could be racehorse owning members as it would not cross the limit of 50 per cent restriction in the managing committee as per the License Condition.
The intention of the government surely was not to penalise those owning horses from becoming committee members, but the decision was forced by the circumstances. The government only wanted to ensure that the Stewards remained neutral in their decisions pertaining to racing only. The participation of racehorse owners was critical for giving a proper direction to the club. Unfortunately, the absence of racehorse owners in the committee in a significant number has badly affectedly the running of the sport as those at the helm are busier pleasing the members rather than promoting the sport which is the cause for the existence of the club. For the mistakes committed by a few people, the entire horse-owning members have been penalised even though they have the interest of the sport in their heart. But vice versa has not happened despite the mess created by non-horse owning Stewards and their shenanigans which has brought down the image of the club.
The club has lost its focus because the Stewards lack the knowledge of the sport as their involvement is superficial and they have no commitment to the sport. The quality of administration has deteriorated in the last few years. It has become difficult to find people good enough to contest as those owning horses are disqualified from being Stewards and only those who have made it a profession of contesting year after year are available to contest. They have developed a vested interest and are not ready to vacate their positions exploiting the lack of interest in most non-horse racing members to be active participants. The weird interpretation of 50 per cent representation is applied to committee members as well has affected the interests of the racehorse owners as on many occasions, there have been instances of not even one-horse owning committee member getting elected. Most of these worthies would fail a simple general knowledge test on horse racing. There is no voice to reflect the sentiments of the racehorse owners in the managing committee.
The Para 2A of the License issued under the Mysore Racecourse Licensing Act 1952 states: When the license is a company or a body of individuals, no license shall be granted if more than 50 per cent of the elected members of the Managing Committee are owners of Racehorses.
A plain reading of the above makes it abundantly clear that the intention of the government was not to in any way restrict the racehorse owners from occupying all the four elected positions in the managing committee, as far as the strength of the racehorse owners in the entire managing committee was less than 50 per cent.
The above can be interpreted to mean that the Government of Karnataka had vide Order No FDT.CRC.85 dated 02/07/1985 imposed a ban on the person owning racehorse to function as Stewards of the Bangalore Turf Club. The said order was made in pursuance of and in the exercise of the power vested under Section 4(2) and Section 4 (5) of the Mysore Racecourse Licensing Act, 1952.
Ashok Raghavan, one of the active members of the club had written several letters to the club including the request to take a legal opinion about the 50 per cent representation to correct the injustice meted out to racehorse owning members. The said member had also sought a hearing with the managing committee on the matter which was not granted for inexplicable reasons. He said: ``It is pertinent to note that the Memorandum of Understanding between BTC Management and Government of Karnataka was entered into in the year 1978 and the letter issued by Sr A S Nagaraja dated 6/8/1984 in pursuance of the MOU as above is also prior to the imposing of the ban on racehorse owners becoming Stewards as mentioned in the preceding para. A careful reading of Para (a) and (b) of the MOU indicates that para 1 (a) is only for the purpose of enabling two out of the four racehorse owners to become Stewards which was not permissible at all till then. Further Para 1(b) clearly indicates that the Government would appreciate it if all the forthcoming vacancies are filled in by horse owners.
Thus, by a harmonious reading of Para (a) and (b), the Government always wanted to permit a minimum of four owners among the elected representatives as filling up of vacancies are relevant only to elected representatives and not government nominees.
Ashok Raghavan has written to the club that as per his reading of the MOU dated 5/5/1978, the letters dated 6/8/1984 and 17/10/1978, the Articles of the BTC and the conditions in the License as perused by him, he was of the firm belief that the stipulation being enforced by the club there should be only two out of the four elected committee members who are racehorse owners are not in order and therefore not legally binding on the members even if the same is being followed by convention by the club for a number of years.
It would be well within the rights of four-race owners to occupy the positions in the managing committee of the club among the elected ten members at any point of time. Ashok Raghavan has sought a legal opinion on the matter from at least two advocates forthwith apart from the legal counsel of the club as the time for filing of nominations to fill up the vacancies to the post of committee members and stewards is in process. He has demanded an immediate response.
The club sought an opinion from the Finance Secretary about the issues raised by Ashok Raghavan. However, the Finance Secretary I S N Prasad who has somehow sided with this committee despite the many illegal decisions taken by them and the opinion of the Monitoring Committee appointed by the government authorised by him had opined that the integrity of the administration was under question, has asked for the status quo to continue. He wrote to the club: ``With reference to the letter of Ashok Raghavan, the government is of the view that the elected Stewards are already banned from owning racehorse horses, the License Condition 2A shall be applicable to the other elected managing committee members also. Further to avoid confusion in future henceforth, the License Condition shall be suitably made clear to reflect the above position.
The clarification issued by the Finance Secretary is shocking, to say the least. There is no proper application of mind or reasoning. When the license condition had stipulated 50 per cent representation for racehorse owners, then in the altered scenario, the four posts of committee members could have been for the racehorse owning members of the club. The Bangalore Turf Club is a club which conducts the serious business of horse racing and it is imperative that those who run the sport have passion for the same and have a stake in racing. It is time the racehorse owning members of the club fought for their rights especially on matters which concerns the management of the club of which they are an integral part of. It is clear from the clarification issued by the Finance Secretary; the interpretation of the Licensing Condition had been wrong all along!
Owning a racehorse should not be a disincentive in a club which is there to conduct the sport of horse racing. The club should be actively encouraging its members to invest in horses rather than encouraging those who are there to demand huge perks after paying a king`s ransom of Rs 250 per year as membership in exchange for more than Rs 20,000 returns in benefit! I hope the Finance Secretary takes an impartial view of the same and is not guided by the vested interests of certain people who have been dominating positions at the club. In all other turf authorities of India, there is no restriction on a racehorse owner from becoming a Steward.