Maharashtra government puts off co-operative society polls by a year

Decision will delay setting up autonomous authority.
If you are living in a large housing society where elections are overdue, you would have to wait for at least one more year, till the proposed election authority to monitor the polls in co-operative bodies is set up.

A few months ago, the state government decided to set up an autonomous election authority for co-operative bodies, to be headed by a commissioner. The process was to be completed by the end of 2013. Now, the government has decided to postpone all elections to co-operative bodies till December 31, 2014, in view of the Lok Sabha and state assembly polls due next year.
The state election authority will now supervise, control and conduct polls in all registered co-operatives. This step was taken under the 97th Constitutional amendment, which aims to ensure autonomous and democratic functioning of co-operatives and accountability of the management to the members and other stakeholders.

But the government has not appointed a commissioner to head the authority yet. The commissioner is to be a retired civil service officer not below the rank of a secretary. Now, it is concerned that the government machinery will have to be engaged in the general elections process.

“The Lok Sabha and state assembly polls are due next year. So these elections are being postponed. Also, the polls to co-operative bodies affect the dynamics of local politics,” said a senior official in the co-operation department.

Polls for about 32,000 co-operative bodies, including about 12,000 housing societies, have not happened since 2011 when the amendment to the co-operatives act took away the elections from the purview of the registrar.

A new election authority would prevent political pressure being exerted on officials in the co-operation department and the voters in these hotly contested elections.

The postponement has angered some in the co-operatives sector. “We are not in agreement with the government’s decision… this is unjust. At least co-operative housing societies and small credit societies should have been exempted from this,” said Ramesh Prabhu, chairman, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association.

He pointed out that the government’s stay on decision-making by the old committees had affected the progress of work related to redevelopment, conveyance and repairs of buildings.

Advocate Vinod Sampat pointed out that the decision had caused multiple problems. He alleged that the decision to set up the election authority was taken to mollycoddle the sugar lobby, but that it would on the contrary increase political interference in elections to these bodies.

On March 31, 2012, Maharashtra had 2.28 lakh co-operative societies with about 5.25 crore members. Among them 88,472 were co-operative housing societies with 23.11 lakh members.

According to Maharashtra’s economic survey, there are 25,437 co-operative dairy societies, 15,004 urban co-operative credit societies, 526 urban banks, 21,443 primary agricultural credit societies and 202 sugar co-operatives.

Officials explained that as and when the elections to co-operative bodies is taken up by the new authority, it would take about 30 days to complete the election process. They also pointed out that states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had already set up the election authority.

Polling matters to be with state
The state election authority, which would operate along the lines of the election commission, will supervise, control and conduct the polls in all registered co-operatives like housing societies, banks, credit societies and milk federations, that have a membership of more than 100.

Housing society presidents need not sign bond: Maharashtra CM

Prithviraj Chavan announced that a bond which the president of housing societies has to submit within 45 days of assuming charge will be abolished to make the Cooperative Societies Act consumer-friendly.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that a bond which the president of housing societies has to submit within 45 days of assuming charge will be abolished to make the Cooperative Societies Act consumer-friendly. The CM said the notification would be issued in two days.

Societies and organisations representing them have been demanding the scrapping of the bond, which places legal responsibility on committee members for their actions.
Societies had been finding the provision tedious as the office bearers work on an honorary basis and the action for failing to abide by the provision was not justified. The announcement is expected to offer respite to more than 50,000 societies in Mumbai and Pune.

Cooperation minister Harshavardhan Patil said in the last six months more than 400 cooperative societies have complied with the deemed conveyance provision. “More than 70% of the societies in Mumbai are expected to obtain the deemed conveyance by March 2013.”

Society can’t charge more than Rs25,000 as transfer fee

About eight years ago, we registered our society which is in Mira Road. I would appreciate if you can advise on the following points:
1. Eight members of our society have sold their flats prior to forming the society. Should the share certificates be issued in the name of the first buyer from the builder and then transferred to the second/third buyer as per the chain agreement?
2. What is the transfer fee the society can charge?
3. A big amount towards the monthly maintenance charges is outstanding from some members from the past many years, ie, prior to and after registering the society. Can the society recover this amount and how?
4. A few flats are expected to be sold shortly. Can the society hold/refuse the transfer application till all the old outstanding dues are cleared/paid?
— Paresh Mehta

Till such time as the society is formed, the builder is de facto and de jure owner. The share certificate is to be issued in the name of the persons whose names are given to the society by the builder as members. Transfer fee is to be decided by the AGM of the society but is restricted to a maximum of Rs25,000. Outstanding from members is to be collected from them by issuing legal notice and following the procedure laid down in the Cooperative Societies Act. All transfers are subject to the approval by the managing committee but it would be subject to the principles of equity, justice and good conscience.

Discrepancy in rates
My complaint with the MTNL, dated August 17, regarding discrepancy in call rates is still pending. Someone has been using my number by getting it associated with my group plan. On enquiry, I found three telephone numbers associated with my mobile number and instead of 90p/min getting deducted Re1/min was deducted for the calls I made. When a call lasting for 29 seconds was made, I realised Rs62 was deducted. That is when I realised someone must be misusing my number. I asked the MTNL help centre to check at their end as to whom the above numbers belonged and also to refund then extra amount. Initially, the help centre people assured me that they would refund Rs62, but till date no action is taken. Instead, I received a letter saying that my complaint had been forwarded to DE Billing GSM, MTNL, and that I should communicate with him directly.
— Ravi

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) directives, no customer can be given a Value Added Service (VAS) — even if it is free — without his specific consent. Please send a letter in writing to the MTNL authorities about this, with a copy to TRAI. Regarding over billing or wrong billing, a group number or company number is vulnerable to such pranks because many people have access to the same. While chasing MTNL for a refund, which you are entitled to, think of a way to avoid getting into such situations.

Parking woes
I had gone through a recent article in DNA about car parking space to be provided as per rules. I was extremely satisfied about the outcome from the court room. I live in a building which is now 51-years old. From the past 30 years, I have two cars which the society had permitted and I was paying the society the charges for them. The building has 17 flats and during TDR 11 flats were constructed around 4 years back.

We now have stilt and open car parking. One new member did not opt for stilt car park but has a car which is parked in open car parking. In open space nine cars are parked out. which two slots are given to new members. In the recent AGM, the society passed a resolution that in the open car parking area only one car is permitted. I had protested saying that in the stilt car parking new members are permitted to park two cars, the reply was that such car parking have been sold to them. I have three flats in the society in my name.

I am not clear that how two laws are framed in TDR building; one for new members and the other for the old ones. I am also not clear that how the two new members are permitted to park their cars in open area and the oldest member has been instructed to remove the second car.
— RN Shahani

A cooperative society can frame any rules for itself as long as they are within the laws of the land, and they satisfy the principles of justice, equity and good conscience. An important point in your case is, what were the terms and conditions of redevelopment with regards to parking spaces? Was it stated that all old members will be given the same number of parking spaces as before or that they will be freshly allotted? This will decide the fate of how many parking spaces you are ‘entitled’ to in the new set-up.

Mumbai: Societies can now wrest dues out of you

Are you a repeat defaulter on maintenances charges for your flat? Mend your ways.

Housing societies in the state will soon have the power to initiate recovery proceedings from flat owners who default on such charges.

This was one of the amendments to the Maharashtra State Co-Operatives Act cleared by the state cabinet on Wednesday to bring it in line with the 97th amendment to the Constitution, which is aimed at encouraging the economic activities of cooperatives.
Societies, however, don’t get a free run of things. If they initiate recovery proceedings, they will still have to take the help of a recovery officer of the state.

While the cabinet cleared a move to permit housing society executive bodies to even sell flats to recover dues in extreme cases, the final sale of a flat will require the approval of the registrar of cooperatives.

Worried over an amendment that disallows administrators to be appointed for unaided societies — a move that would do away with state intervention in co-operative societies that do not take any government aid — the state is looking at legal options to allow intervention if there is mismanagement and misappropriation of society funds.

Co-operation minister Harshvardhan Patil said the state is mulling over a legal option of imposing certain conditions which allow it to intervene. “People can then come to us, saying the societies are registered and that the government should do something about the co-operative institution if there is deposit erosion or liquidity collapse.”

The scope for state intervention in co-operative institutions receiving government aid has been further reduced with an amendment that allows suspension or supersession of the board for only a period of six months. In the case of co-operative banks, this period cannot exceed a year.
Another major amendment stipulates that members of co-operatives will have to attend at least one annual general meeting to stay an active member. Else, he/she will be dubbed ‘non-active’, ergo, losing the right to vote.

Advocate Vinod Sampath, housing societies law expert, picked holes in the amendments. “There are a few good things. But the move to allow housing societies to directly start recovery proceedings against defaulters and then get the approval of the registrar may not be right. Any penalty can be levied only by a court, and the society cannot decide and levy them. There has to be a counter-check to the powers vested with the society. The managing committee can charge whatever comes to their mind and levy a penalty on the house owner to recover dues. People with vested interests may take advantage of this amendment.”