The Madras High Court observed that as long as the club/association acted within the powers defined in its bye-laws, Court would not interfere with the decisions taken by it. A person being member of the voluntary association was bound by the rules, Bye-laws framed by that association and, was also bound by the actions taken by those in whom the power was vested under such rules.

The Bench of Justice Rmt. Teekaa Raman observed that “voluntary associations, cannot be put on par with the Court or tribunal, when dealing with the disciplinary matters concerning the membership of the petitioner.”

Appellant appeared in-person and Advocate P.R. Ramakrishnan appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the appellant was permanent member of the respondent club registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. The appellant stood for the election committee and had raised certain issues pertaining to the governance of the club.

Several Complaints were filed, which led to institution of disciplinary enquiry against the appellant by the Management Committee. The Committee suspended the appellants membership of the club. Suit was filed to declare the suspension order null and void. But the same was dismissed by the District Judge. Aggrieved by the said order, the appellant approached the High Court.

It was argued by the appellant that the Managing Committee had conspired to suspend and terminate him from the membership of the club and the show cause notice was issued alleging that he was interfering with the ordinary day-to-day operation and management of the club.

The Court noted that the registered private clubs were entitled under private law to take steps to maintain internal discipline and protect their fair image and status. The Bye-laws of the club were equally applicable to all including the appellant's membership and as per Clause 23 of the Bye-laws, a show cause notice had to be issued before taking any disciplinary action upon a member.

It further said that when a suspension order was passed by the Club against the member, suspending his membership, then the point that had to be considered by the Court before any interim order was granted was whether a fair play was done or not and noted that fair procedure had been followed-show cause notice was issued, reply letters were sent, Enquiry Committee was constituted, the appellant was given the opportunity of being heard.

The Court further observed that the District Judge had correctly appreciated the position of law and held that “the managing committee of clubs have sufficient attitude to initiate disciplinary proceedings against their members and that the standard for these proceedings are not the same as that applicable to proceedings before courts / in the judicial system.”

Therefore, the Court held that prima facie there seemed to be no irregularity, the Court could not interfere in the decisions of club as long as it acted within the powers defined in its bye-laws and internal regulations.

Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the District Judge order was upheld.

Cause Title- Lieutenant Colonel, Sandeep Dewan (Veteran) v. M/s. Ootacamund Club

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