At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SATHISH NINAN
For the Petitioners: Arun Chandran, Nisha George, Advocates. For the Respondents: R4-R5, M. Sasindran, Advocate, Mable C. Kurian, Govt. Pleader.
1. Sanction granted by the Joint Registrar, to issue fresh identity cards to members on surrender of the existing identity cards, is under challenge in this writ petition.2. The 4th respondent Society is a Society of the employees of the Government Secretariat. On retirement of an employee, he loses his membership from the Society. The Managing Committee of the Society was superseded in the year 2018 and since then an Administrative Committee is in office. On 04.01.2020, the Administrative Committee resolved to issue fresh identity cards to members of the Society on they surrendering the existing identity cards. The same was necessitated since there were allegations of various forged/fabricated identity cards being issued by the former honorary Secretary. As per Ext.P4 order dated 20.03.2020, the Joint Registrar accorded sanction for the said C. R. course. The same is under challenge.3. Heard Sri.George Poonthottam, the learned Senior Counsel assisted by Sri.Arun Chandran on behalf of the petitioners, Sri.M.Sasindran and the learned Government Pleader on behalf of the respondents.4. The petitioners challenge Ext.P4 order on two grounds; firstly, the Co-operative Societies Act or Rules does not sanction such procedure of recalling the identity cards and issuing fresh identity cards; secondly, in view of the present Covid Pandemic, it would not be advisable to invite the approximately 5600 members of the Society to the office for the aforesaid purpose, since such an assembly would result in drastic consequences.5. As stated in Exhibit P4, the circumstances which compelled the Society/Administrative Committee to seek for permission for issuance of fresh identity cards are the following:-(i) There were various complaints regarding forged/fabricated identity cards having been issued by the former Secretary.(ii) Crime No.1394/2019 has been registered with respect to the forging/fabrication of identity cards and enquiry/investigation is going on.(iii) The identity card registers have been seized by the Crime Branch in connection with the investigation. Therefore, verification of the identity cards with the identity card register is not possible.(iv) In the aforementioned circumstances, it is practically difficult to conduct a fair election.(v) The Administrative Committee had been in office since 05.03.2018 and it is necessary to have elections conducted at the earliest.6. Rule 16A of the Co-operative Societies Rules provides for the issuance of identity cards to members. Sub-rules (1) and (3) of Rule 16A, which are relevant for the purposes of the present case, are extracted hereunder:-“16A. Identity card:-(1) A person admitted as a member of a Society shall be issued with an identity card, in Form 6A, which shall be conclusive evidence to prove his membership in the Society. The member shall furnish two copies of his recent photograph of passport size to the Society. Copies of the photograph shall be attested by the Chief Executive of the Society or an officer specially empowered in this behalf by the Committee of the Society and one copy of the duly attested photograph shall be affixed in the identity card and the other copy shall be affixed in the Register in Form 6B maintained for the purpose. The identity card shall also bear the seal of the Society.xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx(3) The identity card shall be issued direct to the member concerned after obtaining his acknowledgment in the Register in Form 6B and shall not be supplied to any other person on his behalf.”7. The rules stipulate the following:-(i) A member shall be issued with identity card in Form 6A.(ii) Register of identity cards is to be maintained in Form 6B.(iii) The identity card and the register is to be affixed with recent passport size photograph of the member.(iv) The photographs are to be attested by the Chief Executive of the Society.(v) The identity card is to bear the seal of the Society.(vi) The identity card is to be issued directly to members.(vii) An acknowledgment is to be obtained from the member, in the Form 6B register, while issuing the identity card.The aforesaid requirements are incorporated to ensure that there is no malpractice played in obtaining membership and issuance of identity cards. Rule 35A provides that an identity card is mandatory for exercising voting right. These provisions ensure a fair election.8. Referring to Rule 16C, the learned Senior Counsel would submit that the statute only provides for issuance of duplicate identity cards and does not envisage the procedure as now contemplated/ proposed. According to the learned Senior Counsel, there is no other provision for issuance of duplicate cards. Rule 16C, no doubt, only provides for issuance of a duplicate identity card when the card has been lost, defaced, destroyed or damaged. The said Rule cannot have any application to the case at hand. However, Section 66A gives due authority/power to the Registrar to give directions in the nature presently ordered. It would be profitable to refer to Section 66A and hence is extracted hereunder:“66A. Powers of Registrar to give directions.-Subject to the provisions of the Act and the rules made thereunder the Registrar may issue general directions and guidelines to any or all of the co-operative societies in furtherance of the purposes of the Act or for implementing government policies for the benefit of the members and the general public.”The Section empowers the Registrar to give general directions for furtherance of the purposes of the Act. Conducting of fair election by the issuance of proper identity cards is only an act in furtherance of implementation of the provisions of the Cooperative Societies Act and Rules, and the Registrar has the authority to issue such directions as may be necessary for the said purpose. The challenge against Exhibit P4 on the ground of absence of power/authority with the Registrar, is thus negatived.9. As regards the contention urged with reference to the
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Covid pandemic, it is for the Administrative Committee to ensure that there does not occur crowding in the office. It is for them to put their heads together and give appropriate directions.10. Finally, the learned Senior Counsel raises an apprehension that, the various members inducted by the Administrative Committee while in office might be issued with identity cards. Law is too well settled that persons enrolled as members by the Administrative Committee will not have any voting rights. I have no reason to assume that the Administrative Committee in office will over look the law.For the afore reasons, the writ petition fails and is accordingly dismissed.