In a landmark judgment, the Bombay High Court had mandated direct elections in cooperative bodies, including cooperative housing societies, in a bid to usher in transparency in their functioning. Of the approximately 98,000 housing societies in the state that are supposed to hold elections, only 25,000 have done so, while the rest have failed to do so. Cooperative housing societies form the bulk of cooperative bodies in the state. More than 60 per cent of these societies are located in Mumbai and Pune.
As per the Election Rules of the State Cooperative Election Authority, the onus is on the housing societies to notify the Authority, and to hold elections once the five-year term of the executive body gets over. Following the request by the housing society, the Authority nominates an observer, who conducts the election. Election expenses are borne by the society and normally amount to around Rs 7,000.
According to officials of the Authority, most housing societies avoid conducting the elections. District Deputy Registrars (DDRs), who have to look after more than 5000-6,000 cooperative societies of all types, usually can’t keep track of the expiry of terms of the executive bodies. “In case the term of the executive body expires, any decision by it will be deemed illegal and the executive committee members can be held responsible,” said an officer of the Authority.
Lack of both awareness and interest by members of the cooperative society play a role in the issue. Advocate Suresh Doddamani, vice-chairman of the Pune District Housing Federation Limited, admitted that elections were often not held. “We have sent out notices… yet, people are not interested in taking part in the election process,” he said.Doddamani warned that societies which fail to hold elections were going to run into legal troubles in the future. Activist Vivek Velankar said the elections were not considered a priority due to a lack of awareness, as well as apathy on part of the society members. Velankar said it was the duty of the Authority to raise awareness about the legal necessity of holding such elections in cooperative housing societies.