The Centre has proceeded to rein in unauthorised use of land by the country’s largest land owner that also operates nearly 100 luxury golf courses and sports clubs on around 8,000 acres of the government property — the Army.
It has accepted the recommendation of a Parliamentary panel to revisit the policy that allowed the Army, which holds around 80 per cent of the government land, to use defence land for golf courses, offering membership to civilians for a heavy fee which was not even being credited to the government account.
“The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has accepted the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and work on formulation of a new policy is underway in consultation with the Services and Director General Defence Estate,” stated an affidavit filed in Supreme Court on Monday.
The affidavit, filed in response to a PIL by NGO Common Cause, said that the ministry has also issued instructions in December to the Services to prepare a comprehensive status report about golf courses and environmental parks on the lines advised by the PAC. “In the interim, the Services have been directed to open golf courses on defence land only with the prior approval of the government,” said the ministry.
In its reports on defence land, the PAC had in 2013 exposed serious irregularities in the functioning of the authorities, and questioned the Army top brass over “grossly” misusing the government land to build golf courses for its senior officers and others. The PAC had found that over 14,000 acres of defence land was encroached upon by civilians.
The reports of the PAC, which had examined the findings of the CAG, had told the MoD in categorical terms that golf was “not an authorised activity as per the rules under accommodation for defence services”.
Asserting that golf could not be considered as a “military activity”, the PAC had observed that recreation grounds could not be used for golf courses, and recommended revisiting of the entire policy of golf courses for strict action.
As per the MoD, fresh instructions have also been issued for periodic inspection and physical verification of the defence land holding, and a regular land audit once in every three years.