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SC stays HC order that upheld removal of members from Thrissur coop. society

Apex court to also examine if a coop. society's administrator can remove members enrolled by his predecessor

January 22, 2023 09:26 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:05 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of a Kerala High Court order which upheld the power of the administrator of Adat Farmers' Service Cooperative Society, based in Thrissur, Kerala, to remove 4,464 members.

The apex court would also be looking into the question whether the administrator of a co-operative society has the power to remove persons who form the bulwark of a mutual help entity. A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and M.M. Sundresh issued notice recently to the part-time administrator of the Adat Farmers' Service Cooperative Bank and other authorities on an appeal filed by an affected member, Midhun P.A., represented by advocates P.N. Ravindran, George Punthottam and P.S. Sudheer.

HC order

The appeal challenged a December 2022 judgment of a Division Bench of the Kerala High court, which held that "an administrator or administrative committee of a cooperative society has the power and jurisdictional competence to remove persons granted membership by a previous administrator/administrative committee".

It argued that the administrator had issued an "omnibus notice" in two vernacular newspapers to terminate the membership of 4,464 members in 2020. This was when the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act specifically required "individual notices" to be sent to them via registered post. The pandemic was also raging at the time. The High Court had however found no anomaly in the administrator's action, holding that registered individual notices were not mandatory.

‘Survival at stake’

The High Court had also questioned the petitioner's role in espousing the case of all the 4,464 members. The appeal argued that the members under threat of removal have several ongoing transactions with the cooperative society, including loans granted on application. "The removal of such members will affect the very survival of the society," the petition contended.

The society and its bank are engaged in a multitude of activities beneficial to local farmers. The apex court has listed the case in July 2023 for detailed hearing.

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