RIGHT TO INFORMATION VIS CO-OPERATIVE HOUSING SOCIETIES
Information plays an important role in shaping the life of every individual. With the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India and its inclusion in Article 19 of the Constitution, formation of co-operative societies has become one of the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. Besides, they have also been given the status of local self-government like rural and urban municipal bodies in Part 9 of the Constitution. Cooperative societies now have thus come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Hence co-operative societies have now come under the ambit and scope of “public authority” defined under Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
RELEVANCE OF RTI IN CO-OPERATIVE HOUSING SOCIETY
Section 2(f) of Right to Information Act, 2005 states that " information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e- mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force. As per Section 2(f) information can be accessed by a Public Authority from a private body. Hence in this scenario, co-operative housing society is a private body and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies is a public authority.
HOW IT WORKS
Co-operative Housing Societies are not directly covered under Right to Information Act, 2005. But, as per section 2 (f), stated hereinabove they are indirectly covered through the office of Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies. The same can be done by making an RTI application to Deputy Registrar of the ward in the format prescribed under Maharashtra RTI Rules “Annexure A” with Rs 10/- court fee stamp or Indian Postal Order.
The Deputy Registrar, using his powers under Section 77 and Section 78 of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960 will forward this application to the Chairman/ Secretary of the society and the said Chairman/ Secretary will have to provide information to the Registrar, who will inturn pass on the information to the concerned member applicant. However in some cases, the Registrar may direct the Chairman/ Secretary to provide required information directly to the concerned member applicant. If the information is not provided within 30 days, the concerned member can invoke two legal mechanisms by filing an appeal with the First Appellate Authority i.e. deputy registrar herein under section 19 (1) of RTI Act, 2005 or by invoking Section 148A of MCS Act, 1960 under the context of Contempt of Co-operative Courts.
Hence, to conclude, even if this mechanism helps in curbing corruption in the functioning and management of the society practiced by the committee members, it is being observed that some elements are coming forward to seek information from the Co-operative Department regarding co-operative societies without establishing any cause of action and the same could be only to harass the management of societies. Hence there are certain grey areas which need to be looked into especially regarding cooperatives and rights and duties of their members.
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