Madras HC permits State to conduct Formula 4 Race in Chennai Racing Circuit with highest degree of public safety

Formula 4 (F4) Indian Championship is a motorsport series of races in India sponsored by Racing Promotions Private Limited in collaboration with the State Governments. The F4 Indian Championship – Indian Racing League is being conducted in India for the first time in the year 2023 The drivers from across the world such as, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia and South Africa, are expected to participate in this event.

Madras High Court

Madras High Court: In writ petitions praying to abstain the State from conducting the Formula 4 Indian Championship and Indian Racing League Night Street Race at the Chennai Formula Street Circuit, Island Grounds or at any other place within the Chennai City limit and calling for the records, by which the Tamil Nadu Government had disbursed a sum of Rs.15 crores in favour of Department of Youth Welfare and Sports Development (‘DYWSD’)for conducting the race, the division bench of R. Mahadevan* and Mohammed Shaffiq, JJ. while permitting the Formula 4 Race to be conducted in the Chennai Racing Circuit on the dates to be decided by the State Government in consultation with the stakeholders, gave the following directions:

  • The State Government was directed to ensure that the street race in the 3.7 km as stipulated, shall be carried on, with highest degree of public safety and avoiding inconvenience to the public, especially the in-patients of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Madras Medical College, and Omandurar Government Multi-speciality Hospital. It suggested installing necessary silencing equipment like sound silence panels/acoustic sound panel for noise control in the hospitals during the time of the racing events.

  • The Racing Promotions Private Limited (‘RPPL’) was directed to ensure that all public viewers will be provided with necessary protective gear for their safety during the Race.

  • The RPPL was directed to reimburse the expenditure made by the State Government of Rs. 42 crores from the public exchequer, to them, before the event.

  • The State Government was directed to ensure that RPPL or anyone should deposit in advance (prior to next year and the upcoming third year’s event) the stipulated expenditure of Rs.15 crores for the upcoming two years for holding the Street Circuit in Chennai.

The Court noted that roads where the races are going to be conducted, are frequently used by the public to reach Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Central Railway Station, Madras Medical College, Omandurar Government Multi-Speciality Hospital, Chennai Port and High Court. Thus, cordoning off these arterial roads would result in acute inconvenience to the public, and it may throw the movement of traffic out of gear. Further, the Flag Staff Road and the roads surrounding it are entirely an army area, where restrictions are in place round the clock. Thus, it said that without considering all these factors, the State authorities have decided to conduct the event.

According to the petitioners, the MoU entered between the DYWSD represented by its Minister on behalf of the State and the RPPL for three years was executed without following the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act, 1998 and the Rules made thereof.

The petitioners submitted that motor racing is not a sport, but instead an entertainment and thus, the State cannot promote the same using public funds. The Court, while rejecting this argument, said that it overlooks the fact that Entry 33 of list II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution demarcates the fields of legislation providing for sport. It reiterated that legislative entries must receive a wide and liberal interpretation because the words in the entry are intended to cover vast and plenary powers. Thus, the entry ‘sport’ must be given the widest possible meaning.

The Court said that since the expression “sport” has not been defined under the Constitution, one may have to take recourse to the dictionary meaning or the meaning attached to it in the ordinary sense.

After noting the ordinary and dictionary meaning, the Court said that motor racing would qualify as a sport. It also noted that motor racing is considered as a sport by other States and Union Ministry.

The Court noted that the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (‘FMSCI’) is recognized by the Government of India, Ministry of Youth affairs and Sports as the only National Sports Federation for the promotion and governance of motor sports in India. The FMSCI was set up with the main objective to standardise rules and regulations for motor sporting events across India. It is a Private Limited, non-profit company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. It is also a long-standing member of the International Federations for motorsports. Thus, the attempt to contend that motor racing is not a sport, but an entertainment, is specious, preposterous and a mere bluster.

Concerning the contention raised by the petitioners that Sport is not one of the activities specifically provided as a Directive Principles of State Policy, the Court said that it is unsustainable, as Entry 33 of the List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution which includes ‘sports’ as one of the fields of legislation earmarked as falling within the competence of the State Legislature. Thus, the argument that promoting sport is not part of Directive Principles under Part IV overlooks the fact that there is a specific legislative entry, which covers sports and its promotion. Therefore, the Court held that ‘Sport’ is a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, and the State has an obligation to promote the same.

The Court said that the State has, as a policy, decided to encourage the racing sport in the city of Chennai in order that youngsters interested in the particular sport will have the benefit of viewing as well as learning from the same, and as racing as a sport is still at the nascent stage in the State as well as the country, events of this nature will be a shot in the arm for the racing aspirants and that, this will also be able to encourage youngsters to prepare themselves for the racing sport in the international arena.

The Court noted that the State has assured that this race does not close or restrict the movement to the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital, and the patients and ambulances would be able to enter and exit the hospital without impediment.

The Court said that it expects the State to ensure the highest degree of public safety and make sure that the racing event, which will be the first of its kind in the city, is to be done in a controlled manner.

The Court further said that RPPL cannot expect anything more than facilitation as well as arrangements along with co-ordination and co-operation of the State authorities, and the expenditure for the event will have to be completely borne out only by the RPPL.

Moreover, it stated that in future, the State is expected to take upon itself the responsibility of conducting such an event in furtherance of its policy to encourage racing sport and seek the support of private bodies having experience and expertise in the field.

[Dr. Shri Harish v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Mad 280, Order dated 19-02-2024]

*Order by: Justice R. Mahadevan

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner: Advocate Narmadha Sampath, Narmadha Sampath, Advocate General R. Shanmuga Sundaram, Advocate Preethika Divedi, Senior Advocate V. Raghavachari,

For Respondent: Advocate Prasad Vijayakumar, Advocate General R. Shanmuga Sundaram, Government Pleader P. Muthukumar, Advocate A.G.Shakeenaa, Additional Advocate General Haja Nazirudeen, Advocate Azhaguraman, Advocate D.P.R. Prabhu , State Public Prosecutor State Public Prosecutor, Additional Public Prosecutor R. Muniyapparaj, Advocate P.R. Raman

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