Sunday, 29 March 2015

Use RTI Union’s Knowledge-Bank for Solving Your Cooperative Housing Society Problems

Dear friends,

We live in cooperative housing societies (CHS), but we usually fail to ensure that they work well. A major reason is that we lack the working knowledge of CHS functioning. This need not be the case; a wealth of useful information is available for study, thanks to activists like Jagdish Gianchandani who keep updating us with the latest amendments in the laws, important court orders, etc. Using inputs provided by Jagdish and others over 2011-12, we have set up this “knowledge-bank”, from where you can download essential information for Cooperative Housing Society dispute resolution and also smooth running.
 
CHS KNOWLEDGE BANK:  http://tinyurl.com/CHS-Knowledge-Bank 
 
This bank has articles with tips and tricks for those battling Cooperative Housing Society problems, as well as relevant laws, rules, GRs etc – all in one place. 
 
However, don’t be content with only making a withdrawal (i.e. downloading). You can also make a deposit in this bank, so that others can benefit from your knowledge. To share your knowledge through RTI Union’s Knowledge Bank, email your documents with a brief write-up to krish.kkphoto@gmail.com   
 
RTI Union’s information-based approach is based on the insights of JB ‘Jeby’ Patel, a CHS activist who actively propagates knowledge of the laws, rules and principles relevant to housing societies in Maharashtra. THE BELOW ARTICLE IS BASED ON JEBY’S INSIGHTS.
 
WHY CHS ACTIVISM IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR 
 
The CHS is the most basic unit of local self-governance. Unfortunately, few people have a proper understanding of CHS rules, laws, procedures and administrative/judicial mechanisms that provide our constitutional safeguards. The result is arbitrariness and misuse of power by managing committee members. Just like RTI activists, there is a need for “CHS activists” – people who acquire knowledge and experience of such matters, and help others by training and guiding them. CHS activists also improve and fine-tune the existing mechanisms to make them more useable by the general public.
 
A CHS activist in our state should have working knowledge of Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act (MCS Act), MCS Rules, Model Bye-laws, guidelines and circulars issued by the office of Registrar of Cooperatives etc, Consumer Protection Act, and Right to Information Act (RTI Act). He should know how to conduct the affairs of a cooperative society in a lawful manner, with all the proper accounts and paperwork. 
 
Wherever disputes arise, a CHS activist is competent in using a variety of complaint and appeal mechanisms provided by the Joint Commissioner of Cooperatives, Cooperatives Federation, Cooperative Court, Consumer Court and the judiciary. He is somewhat familiar with police procedures also.
 
CHS ACTIVIST ARE NOT NECESSARILY LAWYERS, BUT THEY MAY HAVE A BROADER AREA OF COMPETENCE THAN PLAIN LAWYERS, who specialize only in court work. CHS activists exhaust every remedy available to them, using quasi-judicial forums and administrative forums, rather than taking the matter straight to courts where it usually gets stuck for years.
 
Sample of Jeby’s problem-solving approach: http://tinyurl.com/4-pt-attack-on-corrupt-mg-cmte   
  
WHY DISPUTES ARISE WITH MANAGING COMMITTEE
 
Both CHS members and Managing Committee (MC) members are usually ignorant of the proper methods. However, the burden of blame lies more on the MC as they have offered themselves to be elected on the MC and have volunteered to work for the betterment of the society and its day-to-day working. It is their duty to study MCS Bye Laws, MCS Act,1960 and MCS Rules, 1961 and function accordingly. It is also their duty to educate the members about the applicable laws and rules. When they do not do so, they start working in an autocratic fashion. They behave like landlords, and sometimes like goondas.  
 
True, society Members in general are not bothered about the laws. They ignore their rights, although they have every right to seek information and copies of documents from MC U/s.32 (1) & (2) of MCS Act, 1960. The solution to this problem lies in managing committee members inviting the aggrieved members, showing them the documents as well as relevant laws and rules, and explaining the solutions to problems as per the provision in law. 
 
Unfortunately, MC Members egotistically feel that members have no right to question their working. Rather than using a reasoned and democratic approach, they use unfair methods e.g. not accepting the members’ correspondence, not replying to their letters, issuing notices to intimidate and cow down the family members, issuing instructions to the building watchman to harass their opponent’s family members and visitors, etc. Some MCs stop sending maintenance bills to opponents and later on declare him/her a defaulter. Other start proceedings to try and get opponents expelled.
 
THE SHEEPISH BEHAVIOR OF A MAJORITY OF CHS MEMBERS isolates the minority who ask questions and stand for their rights. About 80% CHS members neither know nor care what is going on, as long as they get their water and electricity. Even the small number of persons who attend meetings do not stand up and speak their mind. They sign any paper that is circulated. So, committees collect attendence signatures from members after the meetings, even if they have not attended the meeting.
 
THREE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF DISPUTES
 
  • Proposed redevelopment of societies are a widespread cause of disputes between managing committees. Many MCs enter into collusion and underhand dealings with builders and redevelopers, who engage in underhand dealings with individual MC members. Builders and MCs misrepresent matters before the society residents, deny them their fundamental rights, create disputes on petty matters and file false complaints against persons opposing redevelopment. 
  • Even in the day-to-day functioning of societies, fights on parking issues, leakage in flats and repairs are common problems. As the walls, ceilings and floors of flats are shared, such disputes arise, and they must be amicably resolved. However, the uncooperative, unreasonable and uncaring attitude of some members and the highhandedness by MC members complicates these problems. 
  • Disputes over issues like irritation caused by children playing in the compounds and making noise, or by the presence of pets, is another major problem. 
 
Due to loss of temper, SIMPLE DISPUTES BETWEEN PRIVATE PARTIES GET MAGNIFIED INTO CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS OR MAJOR ISSUES involving cooperative laws, property laws etc. 
 
WHY PEOPLE HANKER AFTER POWER IN SOME SOCIETIES
 
Quite often, it is difficult to find a member to work in the managing committee. MC Members are requested or rather socially forced to form a Committee. But in many societies nowadays, people quarrel to get into the Committee. In recent decades, the MCs of societies with hundreds of flats, large compounds, club and other amenities are handling very large funds of lakhs and crores of rupees. So is scope for corruption and earning illegitimate incomes by unduly favouring builders or contractors in the bidding process for major repairs, repainting or redevelopment.  
 
WHY BEING ON MANAGING COMMITTEE IS A THANKLESS JOB
 
It is true that managing committee members are rendering voluntary service, but this is not appreciated by the uncooperative people. Most CHS members don’t bother to ask questions, or they hesitate to ask questions. However, the other side of the coin is that when residents start questioning the MC members and try to hold them accountable, they act in a rude and non-transparent manner. They retaliate by ridiculing those who dare to question them, and use the herd mentality of the majority to isolate people who ask questions. The offices of every Assistant Registrar or Deputy Registrar (AR/DR) of Cooperatives are clogged with cases that have cropped up due to egotism and unwillingness to accept one’s own mistakes.  
 
HOW TO GET GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL WHEN DISPUTES ARISE
 
When a member is not finding grievance redressal or justice from the managing committee, he sees the office of Assist Registrar or Cooperatives Registrar (AR/DR) as his saviors. He can also approach the Federation of Cooperative Societies, the Cooperative Court, the office of the Cooperatives Commissioner, and the consumer court. Most people approach the AR/DR first. The process of grievance-redressal begins at the AR/DR, and can include any or all the above-named authorities. It can also include the Minister of Cooperative Societies.
 
The MC however considers it as “harassment” when an aggrieved member seeks justice from any of these forums. MC members live under the mistaken notion that the General Body is the supreme body for resolving all grievances.  
 
HOW THE GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL MECHANISM SHOULD BE IMPROVED
 
Ideally, a clear order should emerge within 45 at DR’s level or within next 45 days at DDR’s level or within next 60 days at the DJR’s level or within next 60 days at Commissioner for CHS level. Total days: 45+45+60+60 = 210 days. However, interacting with complainants at the above offices shows that this system is not effective and timely. Even the orders by Housing Adalats are challenged in the courts, and cases drag on for years afterwards.
 
Ideally, there should be a single window clearance for the disputes system. If the Managing Committees are found guilty of misusing the powers, there should provision for imprisoning them. Otherwise, members of MC are able to use a variety of methods for mentally torturing the CHS members and violating their fundamental rights.
 
CRUCIAL — CHS MEMBERS RIGHT TO INFORMATION
 
The MCS Bye Laws, MCS Acts and MCS Rules must be implemented in letter and spirit by all societies. All societies must prominently display these laws and rules on their notice board: http://tinyurl.com/MCS-Act-Right-to-Inspect-Docu 
 
WHY CHS CANNOT RUN ON CONSENSUS LIKE ‘ONE BIG FAMILY’
 
Many people feel that a cooperative housing society should run through consensus, like a big happy joint family. This is unrealistic. There are crucial differences between the family structure and the structure of cooperative societies: 

(i)There is no legal requirement for decisions of families to be documented and supported with paperwork. However, even routine decisions of the cooperative society must be documented and signed by a responsible person.

(ii)Family decisions are arrived at in arbitrary or authoritarian ways. However, in cooperative societies, it is necessary to arrive at every decision, without exception, through democratic processes, meetings etc., for which proper agenda and minutes must be maintained. All decisions must be made in strict accordance with laws, rules and procedures. Dispute resolution also has to be done ‘by the book’ . There is no other way in the long run.

(iii)The routine expenditures of family members are rarely written down. In cooperative societies, however, records must be kept for every expenditure, large or small, and these have to be produced on demand.
 
HOW RTI UNION HELPS BY MENTORING
 
Often, the managing committee members win battles against ordinary CHS members as the latter lacks documents, knowledge, time and money. The MC spends from the society’s (i.e. members’) funds for legal defense, but the ordinary member has to spend from his own pocket. Our online forum RTIUnion@googlegroups.com supports aggrieved members by equipping them with knowledge of their rights under various laws. We, at the RTI Union, are constantly mentoring members through this online forum. Membership is free. Read RTI Union Objectives & Membership form (Mumbai Metropolitan Region only): http://tinyurl.com/Join-RTI-Union 
 
Warm Regards,
Krish
98215 88114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com
 
 

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