How Maharashtra state polls will affect 70,000 housing societies
Despite the state easing norms for smaller housing societies, they will have to wait to reap the benefits
The impending assembly elections have thrown a spanner in the functioning of the state's cooperative housing societies (CHS), with the government barring them from holding elections till December 31.
The delay — necessitated by the upcoming model code of conduct — comes weeks after the government gave citizens some good news, allowing CHS with fewer than 250 members to hold elections on their own. Maharashtra has over 80,000 registered CHS, of which some 70,000 societies have fewer than 250 members.
Minister for Cooperation Subhash Sureshchandra Deshmukh said the draft rules would be sent to the Law and Judiciary Department for approval before inviting public opinion, after which the final rules will be framed.
"We expect the process to take three months," he said. "So, we came out with the notification. First, we need to amend the existing Act. Then, we have to introduce the new Housing chapter Section 154 (b), which will have 31 clauses, one of which will enable societies to have their own elections."
An official said the rules were being changed because it had become increasingly difficult for CHS office bearers to seek appointments from the cooperative election commission before holding polls. A seven-member committee headed by Sandeep Deshmukh, Addl Registrar Cooperative Societies, current with SRA, prepared the draft rules. Elections will be mandatory as per new norms after December 31.
Deshmukh added, "We have made a few more amendments like: 1. having members from the reserved category, 2. the need to have a minimum quorum to hold polls, which has been brought down from the existing norms, 3. the concept of a cooperative housing association to facilitate formation of associations of less than five societies for conveyance or deemed conveyance matters, 4. the introduction of joint and provisional members, and 5. a penalty of R25,000 on the management committee if they don't allow inspection of documents under Section 32 of the MCS Act."
Asked what about societies that may have already formed new committees and held AGMs, Satish Soni, Commissioner for Cooperation and Registrar, Cooperative Societies (CC and RCS), said, "We have not asked societies not to hold AGMs. They can continue with their AGMs. Only if elections are due, they cannot be held till yearend. Old committees have powers to handle society affairs. Disputes arising from overruling of the notification can be challenged under Section 91 of the MCS Act."
Property lawyer Vinod Sampat said it was impossible for cooperative officials to supervise all elections. On the seven-member committee drafting new clauses to hold elections, he caustically asked, "Is the government saying societies do not know the rules to hold elections, something they have been doing since the 1960s."
He said in many societies, office-bearers' selection is biased, especially when huge funds are involved.
"Nowadays, the cooperative movement survives because there is no alternative," he said. "Builders are smart enough to manage shopping malls without forming cooperative societies, and apartment ownership premises governed under the Maharastra Apartment Ownership Act (MAOA) are supposed to be managed by Cooperative Departments as Deputy Registrar is the competent authority. However, till date authorities have not taken a single step despite the MAOA being in existence since 1970."
Sampat also criticised the government for not clarifying doubts that CHS may have. "The state spends lakhs on advertisements, but when it comes to educating CHS members, unfortunately no advertisement is put out, resulting in a waste of time for members thanks to the negligence of the cooperative department," he said.
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