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By Advocate Vinod Sampat

1. Of late, the Federation has been receiving a number of enquiries from co-operative housing societies, seeking clarification, whether an associate member enjoys any of the rights of a member of the Society and if so, what are they. Enquiries are also directed to the Federation to enlighten the Managing Committee or office-bearers of the co-operative housing societies on the question of eligibility of an associate member for contesting election to the Managing Committee of a co-operative housing society.

2. It is expected that the Managing Committee or the office bearers of the co-operative housing societies should acquaint themselves with the powers conferred on an associate member and the procedural details for allowing an associate member to contest election to the Managing Committee of the Society. The co-operative housing societies are fully aware that their members in general are almost ignorant about the matters mentioned above and consequently, they are not in a position to guide their members in this behalf. As a parent body, the Federation is attempting to issue guidelines in detail in respect of the matters referred to above.

3. We deal with the question of powers of an associate member. It may be made clear that no associate member has any property rights over flat held by the member to whom he is an associate member. It is the nominee of the First member who claims right over the shares and the interest in the flat on death of the original member (i.e. the member whose name stands first in the Share Certificate) and on admission of the nominee to membership of the society, it is further clarified that an associate member has no right over the shares and interest in the property of the society and when the original member dies his associate member automatically ceases to be an associate member. Till 1969, no associate member, nominal or sympathizer member was eligible to vote and/or contest election to the Managing Committee of a Co-operative Housing Society, including a Co-operative Housing Societies, in view of the provision of Sec. 27(8) of the MCS Act then in force. The said section 27(8) was amended in 1969, to delete the word “associate” member from the said section has the effect of removing bar on the voting power of an associate member. Simultaneously, Government amended Section 27(2) of the MCS Act to the effect that the person whose name stands second in the share certificate i.e. an associate member will have a right to vote provided that the original member i.e. person whose name stands first in the share certificate is absent at the Annual or Special General Meeting.

It will be clear that the person whose name stands second i.e. an associate member although has no other rights of membership he acquires a right of vote in the absence of the first member i.e. the member whose name stands first in the share certificate, as per amendment to Section 27 (2) of the MCS Act 1960.

4. Thus, it is a fact, duly supported by the legal provisions, that an associate member has a right of vote when the first member is absent in a general or special meeting. This gave rise to a subsequent issue about eligibility of an associate member to contest election, to the Managing Committee. The matter, whether or not an associate member has a right to contest election to the Managing Committee went before the Maharashtra State Co-operative Appellate Court. The Court held that since an associate member enjoys the rights of vote it goes without saying that he could contest election to the Managing Committee.

5. It was apprehended that the member, having his name first in the share certificate and his associate member might exercise voting even in the presence of the first member. The management of the society therefore may have to be vigilant to watch that at no time, the member and his associate member both exercise the right of vote. Some mechanism has to be evolved, whereby the possibility of both the members, the member having his name first in the share certificate and his associate member exercising the right of vote should be reduced to the minimum. After giving thoughtful consideration to the problem, it was decided that a member whose name stands first in the share certificate, should be required to surrender his voting right, so that there would be no possibility of the associate member and the member having his name first in the share certificate exercising their right of vote.

6. After having accepted the above procedure for the purpose of ensuring that both the member do not exercise right of vote on a proposition, the question arises as to when the first member should furnish a letter surrendering his voting right. It is important to note the point of time when the letter or surrender of voting right should reach the society. The society has to go steps by steps while carrying out election programme. A society has to prepare a provisional list of members. The provisional list of members would include the names of the associate members also, before a final list of members is published, the members whose name stands first in the share certificate have to take decision as to whether they themselves would vote or whether they would like to surrender their voting rights in favour of their associate member. On getting the letters, exercising the option in the matter of exercise of right of vote, the society will prepare a final list of members, deleting the names of the members, having their names first in the share certificates, who have exercised option to surrender their voting rights in favour of their associate member. It is important to note that this final list will contain the names of the members whose names stands first in the share certificate but who have not surrendered their voting right and of those associate members, whose names stands second in the share certificate in whose favour the first members have surrendered their voting rights. The names as stated above in the final list will only be eligible to vote at the election to the Managing Committee and also to contest election if desired.

7. After election of an associate member to the Managing Committee, in whose favour the first member had surrendered his voting rights, will for all practical purpose, exercise all the rights of the member, attend and vote at meetings of the General Meeting and Managing Committee.

8. When we suggest an associate member to be on the Managing Committee, if elected, material point should not be lost sight of, it is that an associate member, as a Managing committee member, will be able to represent the problems, of the society properly, only if he is residing in the premises of the society and is conversant with the problems of the society. It is, therefore suggested that while allowing an associate member to contest election to the committee, it should be seen that he stays in the society’s premises.