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Delhi HC: Disparity in Golf Course Membership Fees Justified Based on Intelligible Differences

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Published on: 04 September 2023 at 15:03 IST

The Delhi High Court has rejected a Public Interest Litigation challenging the membership criteria for the Qutab Golf Course in Delhi, as stipulated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

The court stated that the differing membership fees, including concessions for government employees, were not arbitrary but were based on intelligible differences, taking into account variations in salaries and available resources.

The petitioner specifically objected to the disparity in membership provisions, including subscription charges, between government sector and private sector applicants.

A Division Bench composed of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula held that “A simple disparity in the fee structure, providing concessions to government employees, does not automatically translate into arbitrariness.

This distinction is based on intelligible differentia, rooted in the variation in salary brackets and resources available to government employees, as compared to their privately employed counterparts.”

The petitioner, an accomplished athlete with a keen interest in golf, sought membership at the Qutab Golf Course, managed by the government authority DDA.

The petitioner argued that utilizing public resources for the benefit of a select group contradicts national sports policies aimed at promoting broader sports participation and is against principles of public policy. The DDA countered that the fee structure was rational and did not violate Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law. They emphasized the financial challenges faced by the Golf Course and the necessity for differential pricing to ensure its sustainability.

The Court found the petition to be unfounded, noting that maintaining a golf course requires substantial resources, justifying the fees. The argument that facilities should be available free of charge was dismissed as impractical, given the demands of golf course maintenance.

“This perspective is not entirely aligning with the practical nuances of the matter. It is crucial to recognize that the sport in discussion – golf – demands meticulous and regular maintenance of its courses, which undeniably requires substantial resources.”

The Court concluded that the fixed membership charges were the result of careful consideration, aiming to balance the provision of top-notch facilities with their maintenance.

“The mere fact that the DDA falls under the aegis of the government does not absolve it from financial practicalities. Generating revenue, in this case through membership fees, is indispensable to ensure that the golf course remains in prime condition and continues to offer premier facilities to its members.”

As a result, the Court dismissed the petition.

Case Title: Mahendra Kumar Mohanty v. Union of India & Anr., [2023:DHC:6222-DB]