The incompetence of the Bangalore Turf Club mandarins has come to haunt the club. The club mandarins were in denial mode about the appalling stable conditions for horses which was the prime reason for the existence of the turf club. The turf club`s attempt to whitewash the issue was seen through by the Division Bench of the High Court which appointed a court inspector to submit a report.
Following the report submitted by the court official, the Division Bench came down heavily on the turf club and asked the club to shift the horses if they didn`t make the living conditions better for the horses. The turf club on Thursday informed the court that it would shift 200 horses to a the facility at Doddaballapur and carry out the repair works within a time frame.
The division bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka directed the club to submit a detailed affidavit with regard to the shifting of the horses and also on the implementation of the recommendations of the report and posted the next hearing to April 19.
A PIL was filed by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) in February 2019 following complaints that horses were stabled in unhealthy conditions and many of them were suffering serious impairment because of poor veterinary care. The petitioner had pointed out that the horses in BTC were kept under unhygienic conditions in stables, which didn`t conform to guidelines and also violated Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001.
DRAGGING THE MATTER
The Bangalore Turf Club was not willing to concede and went on dragging the matter for the last three years, paying enormous sums to the lawyers which perhaps could have been sufficient to undertake the renovation that it has offered to do now!. So much for the thinking of the mandarins of BTC. The Legal Sub-Committee head by Harimohan Naidu and other members would do well resign in the face of putting the club into a serious financial mess. Naidu as Chairman was also responsible for alienating many sections of the racing fraternity by his manipulation resulting in the club becoming a litigant and spending crores of rupees to fight the cases instead of using the same money for the welfare of the sport.
INTERLOCUTORY APPLICATION NOT ALLOWED
The Bangalore Turf Club moved an interlocutory application seeking to implead the state government as a party respondent. The club contended that it had been conducting activities for the past 100 years and the state government was also getting revenue through taxes collected from racing activities. The bench declined to admit the application and pointed out that the club being a respondent cannot seek a relief, which is not sought by the petitioner in the PIL.
On the last occasion, the court had pointed out that the report submitted by the inspector, stated that about 80 per cent of the stables at BTC did not conform to guidelines. The Inspector appointed by the Court had recommended that all the stables with asbestos roofing must be removed on war footing as asbestos could be harmful to the horses. The Inspector had suggested that a time frame of two racing seasons could be given to the first respondent to construct the stables.
Earlier the Bangalore Turf Club had tendered an affidavit. It had stated that the estimated time for demolishing of the existing stables, safe removal of debris, for carrying out the construction and repair works will take about one year from the date of approval provided by the State of Karnataka. There were three main difficulties mentioned in the way of immediate commencement of the said work. The first was the order of status-quo of the Apex Court, the second was the permission of the Government required for the work and the third was that the first respondent proposed to make a request for financial assistance to the State Government.
The Division Bench was not convinced of the presentation made by BTC and it had observed: ``On a conjoint reading of the difficulties pleaded in the affidavit, it is crystal clear that in near future the first respondent will not be in a position to implement the recommendations made by the Inspector regarding repairs/reconstruction of the said horse stables. Even the immediate work of removal of asbestos roofing cannot be done in view of the difficulties pleaded by the first respondent. Thus, prima facie, it appears to us that the first respondent is exposing the horses in the said stables to a danger. Prima facie, it appears to us that as there is no possibility of the stables being repaired/reconstructed in the near future, the continuation of use of the said stables for the horses may amount to causing cruelty to the horses.``
The Court, therefore, made a query with the learned counsel appearing for the first respondent whether it was possible to shift the horses to some other places where proper stables were available, sending a clear message that the status quo of keeping the horses in the same conditions giving excuses was not acceptable.
The turf club had been saying that the status quo ordered by the Supreme Court was coming in the way of any major overhaul as far as facilities for the horses were concerned while undertaking enormous capital expenditure on other projects. The hypocrisy of the club was exposed by the Court which was firm in its direction to the club that it cannot hide under any defence except overhauling the living conditions of horses.
Incidentally, during the status quo, the club had also constructed illegally about 200 stables without taking any clearance. The one good thing about these stables is that the size of the stables conforms to the guidelines which are 12 x 12 feet and have better ventilation.
DISMAL UNDERGROUND STABLES
The underground stables at the club which are about 600 are in number are in a dilapidated stage. Apart from the fact that the location of the stables does not help in proper ventilation, water accumulation during the rainy seasons is also a big problem. The asbestos sheets also have broken in many places causing water to seep and cause infections to horses. The use of asbestos sheets the world over have been banned because of concerns about causing cancer but the turf club had not bothered to replace them despite the fact that about 600 syces also live in the stable premises. The lack of concern on the part of the powers-that-be has indeed been shocking and that it has taken an external agency to make the course correction by the club.
How the turf club is going to make these stables livable conforming to the specifications of the guidelines is something that is going to be a logistical circus. Unless these stables are demolished and rebuilt, nothing much can be achieved. The turf club will have to file an affidavit confirming its commitment. It is a Catch 22 situation for the club. The club has to ensure that the dilapidated stables don`t collapse and make them fit enough to survive many more years. The club has placed itself in a precarious situation by its own shenanigans and its refusal to look for alternatives. Also, one is not sure what other hurdles that the club may have to face when carrying out extensive renovation/construction.