Battle over Delhi Gymkhana Membership: Why govt needs to take over nationwide capital’s iconic landmark

The sprawling Delhi Gymkhana Membership nestles in an idyllic wooded setting within the coronary heart of Lutyens’ Delhi. Unfold over 27 acres of prime property off Safdarjung Highway, the Delhi Gymkhana Membership’s compound partitions rub shoulders with the official residence of the late Indira Gandhi, now transformed right into a memorial, and likewise the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Lok Kalyan Marg.

A creation of the British architect Robert T Russell, who additionally designed Connaught Place and Teen Murti Home, the Membership is the favorite watering gap of the who’s who of Delhi’s forms, armed forces personnel, industrialists, and folks from different walks of life. The Membership’s tagline is apt: ‘Legacy Via Historical past’.

At present, nevertheless, the calm of the enduring Membership has been shattered and its existence has abruptly come beneath risk with its administration engaged in a fierce authorized battle with the Union authorities. On April 22, the Ministry of Company Affairs filed a petition with the Nationwide Firm Regulation Tribunal (NCLT) in search of to take over the administration of this 107-year-old establishment.

The petition, filed beneath sections 241 and 242 of the Corporations Act, 2013 and moved by the ministry’s regional director (north) Raj Singh, has alleged that the affairs of the Membership are being run in a way “prejudicial to public curiosity”.

Library of the Delhi Gymkhana Membership (Image Credit: Mail At present)

Moreover, the petition has sought from the NCLT to switch the Membership’s administration to a set of recent directors whom the ministry would presumably select. The ministry additionally needs the NCLT to punish the Membership and its common committee beneath Part 447 of the Corporations Act, 2013 for a ‘fraud’ involving an quantity of a minimum of Rs 10 lakh or one per cent of the Membership’s turnover, whichever is decrease.


In line with the petition, the ministry began an investigation into the affairs of the Membership three years in the past following a criticism made by seven members. In its petition, the ministry has levelled critical expenses in opposition to the Membership’s administration and has cited it as a cause to hunt a authorities takeover.

The petition claims that whereas land was allotted to the Membership for sporting actions, solely two per cent of the accounts present expenditure on sporting actions. The petition additionally claims that catering consumables, wines, drinks, and cigarettes make up as a lot as 30 per cent of the Membership’s expenditure which is in violation of the phrases of land allotment.

The petition alleges that the Membership’s committee charged ‘exorbitant’ registration charges from aspiring members regardless of having a ready checklist that’s pending from 1972. The committee has additionally been accused of mismanaging funds acquired within the type of registration charges paid by candidates on the waitlist. No curiosity was paid on the registration charges, which remained within the Membership’s accounts even because the ready checklist stretched to many years, provides the petition.

The petition additionally alleges that membership purposes of ‘inexperienced card’ holders — everlasting members’ dependents over 21 years of age — had been fast-tracked whereas different candidates needed to look ahead to 30-40 years.


As redressal, the ministry’s petition seeks the suspension of the Delhi Gymkhana Membership’s common committee with quick impact. The petition additionally seeks that the committee’s powers be transferred to a set of recent directors — in different phrases, 15 of the ministry’s chosen nominees.

The brand new government-appointed directors, the petition claims, would undertake a “restructuring” in order that the Membership “capabilities as per [the] phrases of its memorandum and articles of affiliation”. The petition additionally seeks an instantaneous ban on acceptance of any additional membership purposes or charges.

Swimming pool contained in the Delhi Gymkhana Membership (Image Credit: Mail At present)

When contacted by Mail At present, Sanjay Shorey, director (authorized and prosecution) within the Ministry of Company Affairs and who represented the federal government within the case, reiterated what he stated in court docket: “Within the garb of working it as a public membership, they [the management] have made it a hereditary membership for its members by the use of accelerated membership [to relations], in opposition to the individuals standing within the queue for over 42 years.”

The case was heard by the Nationwide Firm Regulation Tribunal on April 24 through video convention because of the nationwide lockdown. Showing for the Membership, senior advocate Vikas Singh and advocate Saket Sikri denied the federal government’s allegations of wrongdoing and argued in opposition to the demand {that a} new set of directors be appointed instantly. “We now have acquired only a two-day discover to look earlier than the court docket. We couldn’t get time to rearrange paperwork in lockdown. We want some extra time to current our model,” the attorneys stated in court docket on April 24. The following date of listening to is Could 13.


In the meantime, a number of members of the Delhi Gymkhana Membership are aghast and incensed by the petition, which they are saying will not be in ‘public curiosity’. The members have additionally questioned the federal government’s urgency in taking on the case whereas a nationwide lockdown is in drive to comprise the unfold of the novel coronavirus.

The members say the petition is ‘frivolous’ and born out of the ‘undue grievance’ of a authorities official who was denied membership after he refused to pay an extra sum to the membership. “It’s seemingly the work of some disgruntled components that maintain positions of energy and need to take management of the membership. That is obvious from the truth that a three-year-old ongoing inspection has been listed as ‘pressing’ amid the lockdown,” stated Main SK Yadav, a long-time member.

Defending the Membership’s observe file, its president Lieutenant Normal DR Soni stated, “The Membership is an honourable establishment, over 100 years previous. It has nurtured and inspired sports activities, literature, music, arts, crafts and tradition. Since March, the Membership contributed over Rs 40 lakh to the PMNRF [Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund] and PM Cares fund. It donated rations to migrants and the underprivileged from Day 2 of the lockdown.”

One other outstanding member of the Membership and former chief of India’s exterior intelligence company, Analysis & Evaluation Wing (R&AW), AS Dulat alleged, “I feel the ministry’s petition is prompted by vested pursuits. I do know for certain that the members of the Membership are supreme and all issues are authorised by the final physique. The federal government can by no means be unsuitable, however why would it not need to change age-old lifestyle? Procedural errors, if any, can certainly be rectified. The matter is sub judice.”


The Delhi Gymkhana Membership, integrated in July 1913 because the Imperial Delhi Gymkhana Membership and meant to advertise sports activities, artwork, tradition, charity, and different themes, stands on 27.03 acres of land that was granted to it on perpetual lease by the federal government of the day. The phrase ‘Imperial’ was eliminated in 1959.

The Membership is listed beneath the Corporations Act as a Part eight firm — for charitable or not-for-profit functions. The administration of the Membership includes of a president and a 16-member committee that’s elected by its 5,600 members yearly. The president’s put up is alternated between any person from an Military background and a retired civil servant.

Contained in the library of the Delhi Gymkhana Membership (Image Credit: Mail At present)

With the matter being sub judice, the administration of the Membership is cautious of giving particulars about its functioning. However Mail At present has learnt that from the charges collected from current and aspiring members, the Membership had created mounted financial institution deposits price Rs 28 crore. Of this, cheques price Rs 7 crore have been reimbursed to aspiring members on the ready checklist. Moreover, the Membership’s every day earnings from its eating places, bar, gymnasium, sports activities amenities, and so forth is Rs 7.5 lakh.

The registration/software price for presidency officers to affix the Membership has risen from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh and for non-government candidates from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7.5 lakh. As soon as membership is attained, a authorities member has to pay Rs 5 lakh whereas a non-government member has to cough up Rs 22 lakh.


On the problem of whether or not the federal government can legally take over the administration of such an establishment, Salman Waris, a founding accomplice of TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors, stated, “A Part eight firm is registered as a standard firm with a limitation that the homeowners/administrators/president doesn’t make income. Circumstances relating to such corporations may be taken up by the federal government at NCLT for takeover.”

Part eight corporations, which aren’t meant for profit-making, have sure privileges — for instance, they get heavy tax advantages and don’t must fulfil a minimal capital requirement.

Famous company lawyer Huzefa Nasikwala informed Mail At present: “The licence may be revoked by the federal government beneath three circumstances — one, if the membership’s administration contravenes any phrases and circumstances beneath which the licence was issued; two, if the affairs of the corporate are performed fraudulently; and three, if the affairs performed are prejudicial to public curiosity, and favouring particular person pursuits. As soon as the licence is revoked, the corporate is both wound up or amalgamated into another firm. On this case, the federal government seemingly needs to maintain the membership working, however by means of its personal administration.”

Writing in The Tribune, veteran journalist Rahul Singh, a member of the Membership and son of famed writer Khushwant Singh, stated that whereas the Membership must reform its methods urgently on a number of points, “a authorities takeover of the Membership is an absolute no-no. It could possibly solely make issues worse, not higher, as anyone who has had dealings with the federal government is aware of. Inside cleaning is the reply not only for Delhi Fitness center but when needed, different non-public golf equipment as properly”.

With the shadow of ‘most authorities’ looming giant on this autonomous legacy-rich establishment, the Membership and its members are even able to take the battle to the Supreme Court docket if the tribunal guidelines adversely in opposition to it.

Sandra Z. Connelly

Sandra Z. Connelly

Sandra Z. Connelly leads is leading the DAY TO DAY & WORLD NEWS column. She has mastered the art of writing since her childhood, and with time, this has developed to be an enormous talent. When we hired her, we were definite that her skill sets would benefit our website, and gladly, we were right. Not only she has shown skills in writing, but she has also demonstrated her ability to manage time according to her work schedule.

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