With Membership comes Powers, With Powers comes responsibility, Yet members fail to adhere to their duties

A detailed study on the burning issue of time by Adv. R. P. Rathod.

        When a society member takes up cudgels against the entire Co-operative Housing Society (CHS), refuses to pay dues and poses a veritable nui­sance to other members, you can be assured that the member is capable of going to any extent to ratify his stand, says Adv. R. P. Rathod.

     He explains that there are more than 50,000 CHS in the State and on an average; about 20 to 30 per cent of CHS have mem­bers who are the usual 'trouble-maker' sort. While the degree of trouble they can cause varies from society to society, the nature of the scourge is more or less the same. And, what makes mat­ters worse is that there's poor little by way of legal remedy to the issue. Most problems occur when a member refuses to pay up dues; stalls Repair Jobs; entertains anti-social ele­ments that are usually Land-grabbers, files false complains at Police Stations, files frivolous peti­tions against Co-members and generally stalls regular functioning of the society.

One of the most important duty of a Member is to “regularly pay the Maintenance Charges” of the society on time, but often some members resort to one or the other excuse in order to withhold the payment of Society’s Dues. Adv. R. P. Rathod lists some of the Common excuses made by these defaulters for not performing their duties.

·     The society is not maintaining the property, resulting in heavy leakages and deterioration of the building. Why should I pay in such a situation?

·     I have not been receiving any bills, so how do I need to pay?

·     I had paid money to buy the flat and now I am the owner of my flat, so why should I pay towards another contribution?

·     My family lives in the combined Premises of the two flats that I own but enjoys single privileges, so why do I need to pay for both Flats?

·   "I have constructed the building and sold the flats to all of you". I am still the owner of the Land & the building, Why should I pay the dues?

·     My flat has got severe leakage problems, which I have brought to the notice of the Managing Committee, but no action is being taken. So Why should I pay my dues towards the Maintenance Charges?

· All my dues are paid up, and as per my calculations the outstanding amount as per the Society Billing is wrong, so I will not pay.

·  According to me, I have to pay less than the amounts demanded, in the earlier Bills, so till this is sorted out, I will pay nothing.

·  I have a small flat and have presented my grievances of overcharging to the Committee. I will not pay till the earlier charges are refunded by the society along with interest.

·  I have not been sent the AGM notice and other circulars, The society only sends me Bills, So why should I pay the dues?

·   The society is charging Compound interest, So I am not going to pay anything.

·     The society is charging rate of interest, which has not approved by the General Body, So why should I pay the dues?

·   The Managing Committee is not authorised and is illegally operating, So why should I pay the dues?

·     Everyone has good Car parking space, but mine space is very congested, So why should I pay the dues?

·   The Sweeper is not doing their jobs properly, the watchman also is never found in proper uniform, you don’t manage the society is a proper way, So I will pay nothing?

·     The society is not having 24 hrs water, So why should I pay?

·  The road leading to the building is always dirty and is occupied by hawkers, Since the society is not bothered to take-up this issue, So I will not Pay?

·    Member in General body never accept my suggestions in the meetings, So why to Pay?

·     I don’t stay here, my flat is vacant, I don’t enjoy any facility, So Why should I pay?

In more than 95% of the cases the excuses made by these defaulters are never maintainable as per Law. In my practice of last 15 years, in this field of Co-operative law, I have observed that there are very few cases, wherein a member is genuinely not in a position to pay the Society dues, owing to his poor financial position says Adv. R. P. Rathod. He further says that you go to a Electric Office, Telephone Office, Municipal Office, Tax department or any other Govt. office, with a grievance that the bills are unjustifiable, they will first ask you to pay the same & then file a written complaint.

Very often, the society stands to lose despite there being Legal Processes to recover dues from an 'Errant' CHS mem­ber or evict him. "More often than that, the 'Errant' member besides being a rogue is affluent enough to tackle Legal Prob­lems. In some cases says Adv. R. P. Rathod., the societies don't have enough funds to pursue a Legal matter to its Logical end and leave the issue unsettled in favour of the 'Errant' member.

     CHS cannot legally enforce a member to pay up by inter­fering with his Cable, Water or Power connection, as this would invite adverse Legal issues for the CHS. The Managing Committee of a CHS consists of Honorary Persons, who reluctantly agree to take out their personal time for the routine society jobs, so they avoid taking Legal steps as this would further cause hardship & unnecessary harassments to them adds Adv. R. P. Rathod.

        The Judicial process which though seems simple often gets tedious & people get entangled in the never ending Legal Battle explains Adv. R. P. Rathod. In order to recover dues or eviction of a 'non-paying' resident, the CHS files an application before the Assis­tant/ Deputy Registrar of Co-operative societies under Section 101 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act 1960. A Judicial order for Recovery of Dues passed is bind­ing on the 'non-paying' member, who has the option of appealing to the Divisional Joint Registrar of Co-operative Societies, again if the Joint Registrar rules in favour of the society. An appeal to this order can be made to the Department of Co-operative Societies, Mantralaya.

Though the Co-operative Act puts a terminator to the dispute here, if the order is to be appealed fur­ther, Article 227 of the Indian Constitution comes to the rescue and a Writ Petition can be filed in the High Court, which then exercises its power of super­intendence over subordinate judiciary. By a Special leave to Peti­tion, under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court can be approached for a review of the High Court order.

        This also denotes the fact that How Co-operation is missing in the Co-operatives. Very often, instead of obtaining a solution from the Legal processes, cash-strapped CHS simply lose money in the pursuit of jus­tice while 'rogue' members stand to gain concludes Adv. R. P. Rathod.