Police should not presume every club will indulge in unlawful activities: Karnataka High Court

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In a recent ruling by the Karnataka High Court, the bench has said that the police authorities should not proceed under the presumption that every society, association, or club that has been registered to operate a club will be engaging in unlawful activity.

The petition from the Sri Siragalli Lakshmidevi Recreation Club was dismissed by a single-judge bench of Justice K. S. Hemalekha, who also instructed the police not to obstruct the petitioner association’s legal activity.

The club had filed a petition in the court after they were refused permission by the authorities for conducting recreational activities involving indoor games such as rummy, chess, carrom, billiards/snooker and others for their members inside the premises. While rejecting the permission the authorities stated that the Club needed a license to conduct the activities in accordance with the terms of the Karnataka Police Act.

“The power of surveillance and raids is to be used in bona fide exercise of powers to enforce the provisions of Act (Karnataka Police Act), however, it is open for the police authorities to verify and find out the nature of the activities, if need arises, so that the club premises may not be used for any illegal activities,” the bench replied.

The bench referred to and relied on the judgments of the Supreme Court in case of The State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. K. Satyanarayana and others, along with the judgments from the Division Bench of the HC in the case of Sanna Adike Belegarara Recreation Association & others vs. State of Karnataka & others, and Rama Recreation Association vs. Commissioner of Police.

Based on that the bench noted, “In light of the catena of judgments stated supra and in view of sub-clause (14) and (15) of Section 2 of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 where the licencing of any place of the said order is required only when it is a place of public amusement or it is public entertainment.”

In the end, the bench held, “In the present case, the club is an association for providing recreational activities to its members and the members of the public are not entitled to demand any entrance either freely or on payment of any sum and the entry is restricted as per the terms of the byelaws to its members only.”

“Therefore, in light of the settled proposition of law that it is not necessary to obtain any permission or license for the purpose of carrying on recreational activities by any club or association as observed in the judgments stated supra, the respondent police authorities insisting upon the petitioner to get license under the provisions of the Karnataka Police Act, is arbitrary and unreasonable and calls for interference,” the bench further stated.