The Supreme Court has rejected a plea by the management of the Roshanara Club, which was sealed following expiry of its lease, to restore possession of the premises to it.
Dismissing the club’s prayer, a bench of Justices A S Oka and Pankaj Mithal said, “At this stage, there is no question of restoring the possession of the club in favour of the petitioner as the lease granted in favour of the petitioner has expired and as of today, the authorities have not renewed the lease”.
The court further added that “moreover, an order of eviction under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971, has already been passed”.
The bench which perused the case papers said in its October 19 order that “it is very clear that the Delhi High Court has not taken any final decision on the question of allowing Delhi Development Authority to run the club. That is the reason why the High Court has said that the scheme formulated shall be circulated to the respective counsel for the parties so that everybody can be heard”.
The court further said, “Therefore, at this stage, it not necessary for us to interfere with the directions…as the same are not final. The High Court will hear the parties on the scheme before issuing the directions…”
The club had moved the top court against the October 6 order of the Delhi High Court Division Bench on a plea by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) challenging an April 21, 2023 order of a single bench asking the Authority not to take any coercive action against the club solely on the ground that its lease had expired.
By the October 6 order, the bench had said that “while the challenge to the legality of the impugned (April 21) order is under deliberation, our primary concern is the detriment caused to the interests of members and employees due to the Club’s operations coming to a standstill…the enrolled members, who have paid the membership fee, are being deprived of availing the services. Several staff members have also been engaged for the Club’s ‘daily operations, whose interests are also adversely affected by the current situation’.”
The bench directed that “in these circumstances, in view of the larger public interest involved, the Court is of the opinion that while the merits of the appeal are pending consideration, as an interim measure and without prejudice to the parties’ rights and contentions, immediate measures must be undertaken for resumption of RCL’s (the club) functioning”.
It also asked DDA “to formulate a scheme elucidating the proposed course of action for functioning and management of the Club as they have already taken over possession”.
Such a scheme, it said, shall take into consideration larger public interest and ensure that the facilities are put to best possible use for the members and sports-loving public in general. The HC gave the DDA two weeks’ time for the same.
Established in 1922, the club had been operating on land allotted under lease deeds executed by the Secretary of State for India and the DDA, as renewed from time to time. This extended lease duration lapsed on December 31, 2017. Though the club asked the DDA to renew the same, this was rejected and an eviction notice was issued by the Authority on April 12.
The club approached the HC praying for quashing of the eviction notice and seeking direction to renew the licence to it.
By an order dated April 21, 2023, a single-judge bench of the HC said that the Club’s prayer to quash the eviction notice “would not be maintainable in view of the alternative remedies available under law” even as it directed that no coercive steps be taken.