Maharashtra gets Bombay HC relief over cooperative society poll
In a relief to Maharashtra government which had extended the term of managing committees of cooperative societies as elections could not be held due to Covid-19 pandemic, the Bombay high court (HC) has dismissed a petition challenging the state government’s decision. The petition has sought appointment of administrators to oversee functioning of cooperative societies till elections can take place.
The court held that as the government’s decision did not affect the statutory and legal rights of the petitioner, his prayers could not granted, and dismissed the petition.
The division bench of justice RD Dhanuka and justice VG Bisht, while hearing the petition filed by Arun Kulkarni, was informed by advocate Satish Talekar that the government’s June 2020 decision which was followed by an ordinance on July 10, 2020 permitting extension of tenure of managing committees of cooperative societies was constitutionally not valid and hence should be set aside.
Talekar in earlier hearings had submitted that there were around 35,000 cooperative societies in the state which included cooperative sugar factories, cooperative ginning mills, district central cooperative banks and multipurpose cooperative credit societies. He said that as the term of the managing committees in most societies had ended in January 2020, elections were inevitable but the state through concerned departments extended the tenure of the lapsed committees.
Talekar submitted that this extension and the second extension due to the pandemic in June 2020 were not as per the mandate of the Cooperative Societies Act, and the fact that the state had made an amendment to the Act through an ordinance to justify its extension order was ultra vires of the Constitution of India.
Kulkarni, through his petition, sought appointment of administrators or committee of administrators to take care of the affairs of cooperatives which was mandated in the pre-amended Act till elections for the managing committees could be conducted.
However, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, for the state, opposed the petition on the grounds that the writ petition was not maintainable as it was canvassing a public cause and as the petitioner had failed to show any personal loss suffered by him due to the extension or ordinance, the same could not be entertained. Kumbhakoni further submitted that the Aurangabad bench of the HC had earlier rejected a petition which had challenged the January 2020 extension and the petitioner had failed to inform the court of the same.
After hearing the submissions, the court said, “There is abysmal failure on the part of the petitioner to exhibit existence of legal grievance which needs to be appreciated and allayed by invoking the jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”
The court dismissed the petition and said, “It is evident that petitioner has no legal peg for a justiciable claim to hang on. Therefore, he is not a ‘person aggrieved’ and has no locus standi to challenge the constitutional validity of impugned Ordinances and Order.”