HYDERABAD: In a setback to the existing managing committee of the Jubilee Hills Cooperative House Building Society, the Telangana High Court (HC) on Tuesday set aside the list of members prepared by the Society’s erstwhile managing committee with T Narendra Chowdary as its president.
The HC directed the person-in-charge committee to prepare afresh and publish the list of eligible voters strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Telangana State Cooperative Societies (TSCS) Act, 1964 and its Rules made thereunder. It should prepare the list and submit the proposals to the State Cooperative Election Authority for the conduct of fresh elections to the society in the next two weeks, the court said. The entire process, including holding the elections, should be completed in the next two months, it noted.
Justice MS Ramachandra Rao passed this order while allowing the petitions filed by B Ravindranath and several other members of the society.
The petitioners have sought a direction to the authorities concerned to conduct a free and fair election to the managing committee of the society only after preparing/finalising the voters list by mentioning all the eligible members, including themselves.
This should be done by following the mandatory procedure envisaged under the TSCS Act and its Rule 22, they have stated. “The Registrar-cum-Commissioner of Cooperative Societies, TS, cannot be said to have been unaware of the importance of the poll process to the managing committee of a very important house building cooperative society such as the Jubilee Hills Society,” the judge said.
Justice MS Ramachandra Rao said: “So, he (the Registrar-cum-Commissioner of Cooperative Societies, Telangana) cannot act in such a casual manner, ignoring the mandate of the notification issued vide GO 368 dated December 29, 1999, by delegating his duties to the district cooperative officer. Even the conduct and inaction of the society’s president while preparing the voters list of eligible members cannot be said to be bonafide,” the judge said.
He did not agree with the contention of the society that there is no situation conducive for the smooth conduct of elections to the managing committee. Referring to the recent GHMC elections, the court said for a society with a mere 4,980 members, the State Cooperative Election Authority can certainly proceed to conduct a poll without a hitch, provided all safety measures and protocols prescribed by the State government are adhered to.
During the course of the hearing earlier, the petitioners’ counsel complained that 4,724 members of the society (of the total 4,980) have been excluded from the voters list without giving any reason or explanation. The currently approved voters list consist of only 256 voters, but photographs of some of them are not found, even though it is mandatory as per the Rules. In fact, the situation is not conducive for conducting a general body meeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also, there is no such situation that is smooth enough for the conduct of elections.
It is the responsibility of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies to verify and call for objections, certify the eligible voters list and scrutinise the election proposals, the counsel contended.Justice Rao pointed out that the society, represented by its president T Narendra Chowdary, has not placed any material to show that they followed the procedure prescribed to disqualify any member who did not attend two consecutive annual general body meetings without a leave of absence, by giving him an opportunity of being heard, and thereafter, such member was removed.
Even in Section 25 (1-A) of the Act, there is no mention that a member, who does not attend two consecutive meetings, is ineligible to vote. In this scenario, there could not have been removal of any member at all. Exclusion of several members of the society in August, 2020 from the voters list for allegedly not attending two consecutive meetings is patently illegal, the judge said and allowed the above petitions.Besides, there was no situation for the conduct of general body meetings due to the pandemic, he said.