Odisha govt dithering over co-op polls, says it needs SC nod

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 13:

The Odisha government has sought permission from the Supreme Court to hold cooperative polls in the state and the Supreme Court is likely to take a view on this on Thursday, the state Cooperation Minister Dr Damodar Rout said today.

However, going by hard facts, there are enough reasons to suspect that the government is trying its best to postpone the elections for co-operative bodies in the state indefinitely.

Dr Damodar Rout
Dr Damodar Rout

The latest excuse is that the matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court.

On August 6, the state government informed the Odisha High Court through the registrar of the state cooperative society that it has moved the apex court challenging the High Court order which had asked the government to hold cooperative polls in the state.

Despite issuing a notification under the mandate of the 97th Constitutional Amendment for the conduct of elections within 18 months- starting January 30, 2013- the process for the polls for the three-tier Cooperative bodies was never initiated.

In January 2013, the Odisha Co-operative Societies Act, 1962 was amended by the Odisha Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Act, 2012 to bring it in conformity with the Constitution (Ninety-Seventh Amendment) Act, 2011.

The Amendment Act contains a transitory provision under section 17 providing for a time period of six months within which the election to all Co-operative Societies shall be held from the date of commencement of the Amendment Act.

The Odisha Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Act, 2012 came into force on 30th January, 2013 and as such, the said period of six months for holding elections to the cooperative societies expired on July 31, 2013.

Later in August, 2013, the Cabinet had decided to postpone the election to co-operative bodies by a year precisely on the ground that the rules are yet to be finalised. While the government was supposed to hold polls for co-operatives by July 31, it did not adhere to the deadline citing the reason that the nod of apex court is required for the election.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Cooperative Societies Rules, 1965 and the Odisha Cooperative Societies (Election to the Committees) Rules, 1992 were amended to facilitate the holding elections to cooperative societies. However, the publication of the final rules was not possible as a case is pending in the matter in the Supreme Court since 2011.

Violations of the Constitutional provisions notwithstanding, functioning of the over 6,000 cooperative organisations in the state has been acutely affected due to non-formation of proper management bodies.

The elected bodies of the cooperative organisations have been dissolved for over one and half years under the pretext of holding fresh polls. The Government has also appointed an independent State Cooperative Election Commissioner in place of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies but that appears to have been a mere eyewash.

According to sources, the government is reluctant to hold election since many cooperative societies are against the BJD government. Besides, the government fears that the dissidents in the ruling party may play spoilsport and cause embarrassment to the ruling party by ensuring defeat of the BJD sponsored candidates.


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