Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

If one looks at what happened in Orissa Legislative Assembly in the matter of amendment of the Orissa Co-operative Societies Act, 1962, he or she would wish that Orissa High Court should look afresh into its order that has rendered the Act rudderless, unable the minister as is to say that the Bill passed in the House would surely work.

The Minister, Co-operation and Member-in-charge, Ms. Surama Padhi told the House that she would never have brought the Bill had the High Court not made the process of election held up. Because of an interim order of the High Court the Registrar of Co-operative Societies is unable to complete the election in “remaining’ co-operative societies within the statutory period, she said. From her statement it transpired that she is sincerely eager to see that the Registrar completes the elections to the rest of the societies. But this is impossible as long as the High Court has not modified or vacated its order prohibiting elections. In hope of such a step from the High Court she has been amending the Societies act from time to time; but the court is neither ending the dispute nor allowing the elections to take place.

According to the Minister, elections in 5933 out of 7808 co-operative societies and 60 out of the 146 functional central co-operative societies in the State have been held completely as per the reservation policy which existed prior to the commencement of the Orissa Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Act,2004. Elections in the remaining primary, central and apex co-operative societies were required to be held as per the amended provisions of the 2004 amended Act which should have taken about six months. But the said amendment was challenged before the High Court in WP © No.9514/2005. The corresponding amended Rules were also challenged before the same High Court in WP© No. 10301/2005 in which the High Court passed an interim order on 31 Aug.2005 prohibiting issuance of notification for the elections till final orders of the court pronounced or the interim order modified or vacated. Under such “compelling circumstances” there is no other way than amending the Act time and again to meet the requirement of the original Act to complete elections within stipulated time.

In course of debates, members of excellent experience have expressed opinion that the amendment would serve no purpose if the election process remains cocooned in the case file limping in the High Court. This means, the Legislative Assembly makes a Law that it knows to be destined to die without being implemented! Ever since the High Court has intervened, what has happened? The assembly has passed repeated amendments only to witness deaths thereof sans any action.

I think the High Court should not remain oblivious of what happens in the Law making body in the State.

The election to co-operative societies is the only way for peoples’ participation in management of their economic affairs on basis of collective wisdom in the grass roots level. Therefore it has been made time-bound and the Registrar of co-operative societies has been ordained under the Law to complete the elections within a stipulated time frame.

The High Court should therefore do not do any such thing as to derail this process.

This does not mean that I argue that the High Court should not have intervened if the amendment of 2004 called for its intervention. But to me it occurs, in peculiar instances like this one, the hearing should be time bound and the judgments should be pronounced in time so that the time frame stipulated for constitution of the co-operative committees is not lost in the labyrinth of litigation.

No litigant should have any right or liberty to stall elections to co-operative bodies by bringing up a case before the High Court and once admitted, to resort to the tactics of time passing so that the purpose of co-operative Laws is lost.

It would be better if the High Court please reviews the case file and sees if the litigant has neglected his case.

In the Assembly, in course of debates, members have alleged that the Minister herself has filed the WPs through her personal cronies in order to exploit co-operative avenues for personal or party benefit.

Averse as supposedly she is to co-operative movement by political orientation, some of the public are also inclined to accept this theory.

If there is an iota of possibility of this in the matter, it is a very serious act of subterfuge.

The High Court should therefore see if willful dilatory tactics are used in the instant case or not and if yes, who, the litigant(s) or the Minister (by default for concerned officer), is responsible for the delay in finalization of this case.

As a senior citizen of this country, it would be a matter of reassurance to me on working of our Laws, if the High Court punishes the perpetrators of subterfuge, if any, for who repeated amendments of the co-operative act have gone in vain.

The WPs should either be allowed or rejected within such a time so that the Orissa Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Act 2006 does not fall in the category of barren Laws. And, hence, I emphasize that the High Court should look at its order afresh.

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