Petition seeks to quash ordinance allowing extension to co-operative society members

A petition challenging a June 2020 order and July 2020 ordinance of the state government which postponed elections to cooperative societies and gave a three-month extension to managing committees of cooperative societies has been moved in the Bombay high court (HC). The petition stated that in view of the Co-operative Societies Act, which does not have a provision for extension and only allows appointment as administrator in case term of managing committees end, the order and ordinance should be set aside. It further said that administrators should be appointed, similar to the ones appointed in 14,000 gram panchayats.

According to the petition filed by Arun Yashwant Kulkarni through advocate Satish Talekar, the tenure of most cooperative societies in the state had ended before January 2020, but the state government passed orders postponing the elections on the grounds that most officers of the cooperative sector were involved in the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Farmer Loan Waiver Scheme. The HC had quashed and set aside the order on the grounds that they were illegal, arbitrary and ultra vires to the constitution. The HC had also noted that there was no provision which permitted continuation of the term of managing committee members.

Later on June 17, 2020, the state again issued an order to postpone elections of cooperative societies for three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and an ordinance was promulgated on July 10, 2020 allowing members to continue to hold their office till new committees are constituted.

The petition, while pointing to the unconstitutionality of the order and ordinance, referred to a 2011 amendment to the Cooperative Societies Act which fixes the term of managing committee members to five years and allows for formation of an independent body that will oversee the elections or appointment of administrators in the event elections cannot be held.

In light of these submissions, the petition urged the HC to quash and set aside the order and ordinance and direct the government to appoint administrators.

The petition is expected to come up for hearing on Thursday.

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