The management committee’s decision comes six years after the Gujarat High Court directed the cooperative housing society to collect maintenance charge on per unit basis and not the size of plot. Several society members would benefit as they would not have to pay higher charge than others, just for owning larger plots in the society.
The seeds of discontent were first sown among members in 1987 during the silver jubilee celebration of the society. In 1987, when the society completed 25 years, every member was given a box of sweets and a silver coin. However, members paying higher maintenance, thanks to the larger size of their plot, raised objection by saying that they should be given a bigger silver coin and box of sweets.
Dr Bharat Parikh, a member of the society since 2006, said, “The discord (over maintenance) started way back in 1987 when some members challenged the society’s decision to charge higher maintenance from those owning larger plots. The society has wasted lots of money fighting with each other. At last, I am happy, the issue has been resolved and now everyone will pay the same maintenance which is judicious.”
Society residents Madhukar Parikh, Harendra Shah and others started legal battle in 1987 before the court of Board of Nominees raising many issues including levy of maintenance and won the case in 1995. Parikh and others contended the by-laws of the society did not contain any provision authorising it to levy and recover maintenance charges based on plot size.
The by-laws authorise it to levy and recover maintenance charge on per member basis only, they argued. However, due to society’s insistence members were forced to pay heavy maintenance charge, petitioners said. On its part, the society was of the view that the maintenance be collected based on plot size to meet high expenses towards upkeep of the society.
The society then challenged the Board of Nominees’ order before legal authorities like the Co-operative Tribunal, single judge and then two-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court but failed to substantiate its stand. On April 5, 2013, HC directed the society to take maintenance per unit and not size of the plot.
HC order not complied
When the society did not comply with HC order for five years, Parikh filed contempt of court petition on June 14 last year. The court then issued notices to the Satyagrah Chhavani Co-operative Housing Society and sought its explanation. The office-bearers, including the chairman of the society, were also included as respondents in the case. Upon strict approach shown by the court, the society tendered an unconditional apology by filling an affidavit in the court and later passed a resolution to give effect to the court order on April 7, 2019.
Petitioners welcome move
“The society has passed resolution and we are overwhelmed as our stand has been vindicated. The court had issued the order way back in 2013 but the society didn’t comply with it,” said Mihir Lakhia, counsel who appeared for Parikh. “We had filed a contempt of court petition against the society and ultimately it passed the resolution following the strict approach shown by the HC,” Lakhia added.
Welcoming the move, Parikh told Mirror, “I am happy that my 30-year long legal battle has yielded result and society has passed the resolution. It will prove to be a big relief to those members who till now paid higher maintenance charge.”
He further said, “I came to live here in 1985. The issue lingered on even after our victory in the tribunal because the chairman of the society changed. Ultimately, the contempt petition filed by us forced the society to pass the resolution on April 7, three days before the hearing of the plea in the HC.”
He alleged, “I faced personal hardships for leading the fight against the society. My application with the society to transfer ownership of the house I live in, from my late sister to one of my daughters, has been kept pending for 14 years. I jointly owned the house with my sister and she wrote in her will in 2005 to pass on ownership of her share to one of my daughters.”
Chairman of Satyagrah Chhavani Kirti Patel said, “We respect the order of the High Court and have implemented it.”
Division of Satyagrah Chhavani society still pending
Meanwhile, the issue of division of the society into two parts is still pending before the Department of Cooperatives of the state government. Members of Sector-7 have sought independence from other six sectors claiming they are being discriminated against.
Sector 7 of the society, with 98 bungalows, gets divided from other six sectors housing 394 bungalows by the road leading from Jodhpur Crossroads to ISKCON Circle on SG Highway.
Sector 7 residents claim they are being accorded step-motherly treatment by the administration and not granted similar facilities. They have filed an application with Registrar of Cooperative Societies and the state government to grant them independent status and separate identity.
I am happy that my 30-year long legal battle has yielded result and society has passed the resolution. It will prove to be abig relief to members who paid higher maintenance