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High Court stays suspension of BTC’s racing license

  June 18 , 2024
   

The Karnataka High Court has granted relief to the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) by staying the state government`s June 6 order, which had suspended BTC`s license to conduct racing activities and betting operations, both on-course and off-course. Justice Krishna Kumar in his interim orders made on Monday, June 18 ruled that BTC could resume conducting races and accepting bets under the same terms and conditions stipulated in the license granted in March. The state government is at liberty to monitor and regulate these activities as necessary and also impose conditions.

Justice Krishna Kumar, in his interim orders, stated that the petitioners had established a prima facie case and that the balance of convenience favoured them. He further noted that the petitioners would suffer irreparable injury and hardship, and that justice would be compromised if relief were not granted. Consequently, pending the disposal of the petitions, the impugned orders issued by the government on June 6 were deemed wholly illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory, irrational, and unreasonable. These orders were also found to violate principles of natural justice and were contrary to the doctrine of proportionality. Therefore, the orders deserved to be stayed, and suitable and appropriate directions are issued regarding the continuation of racing and betting activities.

The Karnataka government had initially suspended BTC`s license on April 1, delaying the Bangalore Summer Season by over a month and causing significant financial losses due to the cessation of off-course betting on Mumbai and Ooty races. The government`s decision to deny the license renewal on June 6 cited illegal betting activities and significant tax evasion, pending a completed investigation.

BTC approached the Vacation Bench in May after receiving no response to its applications for license renewal. Following BTC`s petition, the court directed the government to convey its decision by June 6. The Finance Department and the Home Department, in separate orders, had rejected the license renewal, citing illegal betting activities and collusion. The Central Crime Branch (CCB) had filed chargesheets against several individuals, including bookmakers, the betting ring supervisor, BTC CEO M.K. Kiran, and BTC Chairman Aravind Raghavan.

The Karnataka Racehorse Owners Association and the Karnataka Trainers Association also filed petitions, arguing that the government`s decision adversely affected trainers, jockeys, and others dependent on racing activities for their livelihood. BTC argued that the mere filing of chargesheets should not halt the industry`s operations, emphasizing that government representatives, including the Principal Secretary of Finance and the Bangalore City Police Commissioner, were aware of BTC`s activities.

The government maintained that it had the prerogative to grant or deny the license under the Mysore Race Course Licensing Rules, 1952, without providing reasons for rejection. However, after detailed arguments, the court ordered a status quo, allowing BTC to resume its racing and betting activities. The court`s decision permits BTC to operate, pending a potential appeal by the state government against the interim order.

However, uncertainty remains regarding the operation of bookmakers. BTC had informed the court that it had revoked the licenses of all bookmakers following the chargesheets, creating ambiguity about their future involvement in the racing activities. The court`s decision permits BTC to resume racing and betting operations, but it remains unclear if bookmakers will be allowed to operate under the current circumstances.

The petitioners have filed a caveat in anticipation of the government appealing to the Division Bench. The government`s future actions remain uncertain, as the order represents a significant setback, particularly for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has been resolute in his refusal to issue the license to BTC due to concerns over illegal betting activities and the conduct of the BTC Managing Committee.

 
 
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Total Comments : 1
Posted by Iris on ( June 18 , 2024 )
really? represents a significant setback?
This is a slap in the face of the government. Their orders were deemed wholly illegal, arbitrary, discriminatory, irrational, and unreasonable - very powerful words against a govt whose administration should have been in the course of natural justice and in support of people whose livelihood depends on the sport.
 
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