Bombay HC dismisses plea against postponement of co-op societies’ elections

In view of the pandemic, the state had postponed elections to all cooperative societies, impacting nearly 83,000 cooperative housing societies
Omkar Gokhale

In a relief to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea that had challenged the state’s decision to postpone elections to cooperative societies, including housing societies, district central cooperative banks and sugar factories. The court gave an extension to the managing committees of the societies in view of the pandemic.

A division bench of Justice RD Dhanuka and Justice VG Bisht on February 16 passed a judgment on the the writ petition filed by Arun Yashwant Kulkarni, (72) an agriculturist and a member of a cooperative society at Tasgaon in Sangli. The petition had challenged a June 17 order and a July 10, 2020, ordinance issued by the state.

The plea, filed through advocates Satish B Talekar and Madhavi Ayyapan, had claimed that the decision was “politically motivated”. It sought appointment of administrators for cooperative societies as the term of their managing committees had ended and the law did not have any provision for extension of the same.

In view of the pandemic, the state had postponed elections to all cooperative societies, including nearly 83,000 cooperative housing societies.
“The decision, taken in the larger interest of the public in view of the prevalent pandemic situation in the entire country, is not available for challenge at the behest of the petitioner,” the state had said.

The state refuted the allegations that it had extended the tenure of the managing committees of cooperative societies as most were headed by the Congress and NCP loyalists and appointed administrators in majority of the gram panchayats as they were headed by those affiliated with the BJP.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted that while the gram panchayats were “democratically elected constitutional bodies”, the managing committees of cooperative societies were independent voluntary bodies and hence the state had very little powers to enforce its jurisdiction on them.
Therefore, the decision to extend the managing committees’ tenure was valid as was appointing administrators for gram panchayats, the affidavit filed by the state said, adding that the nature of the two institutions is incomparable.

The state primarily questioned the petition’s maintainability and said the petitioner had no role to file the writ plea instead of a public interest litigation (PIL). The court upheld the state’s contention of absence of cause of action and lack of role of the petitioner and said it could not be “scoffed out of significance”.

The court observed that the petition is “tellingly silent on infraction of petitioner’s legal right”; and held that the state’s decision did not affect either statutory or legal right of the petitioner.

Dismissing the plea, the court said, “It is not necessary for us to consider the objections raised by the the petitioner against the validity of the impugned ordinances and orders.”

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