In a petition filed in the Bombay high court by Mumbai Cooperative Housing Federation, to stall the order of cooperation commissioner, Pune, Maharashtra, the court has set back the federation’s hasty election proceedings.
The high court order on December 13, said, “list this matter on January 22, 2013. However, in the interest of justice, the petitioner can continue with the election process up to finalisation of voters’ list and not further.”
On December 8, the district deputy registrar (Mumbai 1) of cooperative societies, Chandrakant Tikule, while issuing an order to the federation had warned “you are advised not to conduct election without making necessary amendment in the by-laws of the federation in accordance with the 97th Amendment to the constitution. Else, action will be taken against the office bearers”.
Taking a strong note of the fact that the government had postponed elections to all the cooperative societies to 30.11.2012, and as per the clause 79 of Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960, the cooperative commissioner and registrar, cooperative societies, Maharashtra, Pune had given a direction for necessary amendment in the sub-clauses regarding the number of board of directors and reservation to conduct the election process. The order noted, “The election process of federation is continuing without any amendment in the sub-clauses. Societies and people have complained about the working of the federation.”
The high court order has been welcomed by cooperative housing activist who have been fighting against corruption and lack of transparency in functioning of societies. Legal expert like Hemant Agarwal said a complete rescheduling of the disputed elections is inevitable. Even if the high court delivers a favorable order to the writ petition, elections may be held in mid or late 2013 as the election schedule will have to be drawn up from scratch and communicated to around 18,000 cooperative housing societies in Mumbai in advance.
On December 10, activists while petitioning Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to direct the cooperation commissioner to scrap the election, sought for strict action against the directors and their disqualification.
“In a last-ditch attempt the federation declared elections just days ahead of the official release of the cooperatives commissioner’s order that they have taken this step knowing well that as per the 97th Amendment, Maharashtra will soon have to appoint a proper authority for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls and conduct elections before February 2013,” said activists Krishna Raj Rao.
Mumbai district cooperative housing federation ltd, which is Mumbai’s nodal agency for cooperative housing societies (CHS), has powers to hear grievances and give verdicts. Only about 18,000 out of 38,000 CHS are enrolled with the federation and the federation has made no attempts to include rest of the 20,000 societies. Nearly 50 lakh people reside in Mumbai’s 38,000 cooperative housing societies. Due to arbitrary selection of voters since the last 30-40 years, same group of people in the federation have been getting reelected preventing a majority from participating in voting.
Asking the state government for appointment of state election commission to oversee the elections on the lines of what Orrisa government has done, activists say , “This election determines whether these 50 lakh people will get their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14 ,“Equality Before Law & Equal Protection of the Laws” in the next five years.”
The 97th constitutional amendment was passed on January 13, 2012 to free the cooperative movement from the shackles of political interference. But the representatives of the federation have not responded to several calls.