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Madras HC Directs District Election Officer To Ensure Free & Fair Elections To Co-Operative Societies

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The Madurai Bench Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajmanickam decided on two writ petitions, both filed against the same set of respondents. The petitioners filed writ petitions under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution to issue a writ of Mandamus. They sought for the respondents to conduct free and fair elections (as per the law) according to Rule 52(A) of Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Rule, 1988. 

Brief Facts

In the first Writ Petition, Prabhu, the petitioner, claimed that he is a practising advocate. He is also a member of Madurai Taluk Agricultural Production Co-operative Marketing Society. The elections of Office Bearers to the society had been scheduled and cancelled on three separate occasions on account of public order. The respondents had again issued a new election notification which was attached along with the petition.

In the second Writ Petition, A. Selvaraj, the petitioner, claimed to be an agriculturist. He is also a member of Melur Agricultural Production Co-operative Marketing Society. The election schedule was announced by the respondents in October 2018, which was cancelled. The election schedule was again announced in December 2018, for which the petitioner had submitted his nomination. This again got cancelled. Currently, the respondents had again issued an election schedule that was attached to the petition.

Arguments before the Court

The counsel appearing for both the petitioners was Mr. M. Jegadeesh Pandian. 

In the case of first Writ Petition, of Prabhu, he submitted that elections could not take place on the previous three occasions due to law and order problem. Rule 52(A) of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Rules, 1988 creates a statutory binding on the respondents to ensure that the elections take place in a free and fair manner.

Pursuant to this, the counsel also submitted a representation dated 21.09.2020. He further apprehended that the present election schedule that was announced, is also likely to get cancelled similar to the previous three occasions. The counsel thus pleaded for appropriate orders be issued from the Court.

In the case of second Writ Petition, of A. Selvaraj, the counsel argued that the election is repeatedly getting postponed on account of law and order. It is obligatory on the part of respondents to oversee that the elections are conducted in an impartial and fair manner. The counsel, similar to the first Writ Petition, submitted a representation dated 17.09.2020, further apprehending that elections will see a postponement once again. 

The Special Government Pleader, appearing for the respondents, accepted the notice. He has forwarded the written communication of the first respondent (Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies / District Election Officer) to the Assistant Commissioner of Police. The counsel also submitted a communication dated 22.09.2020 addressed to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Melur (Law and Order). The counsel further argued that mentioned police officials had been informed about the apprehensions of the petitioner. Concerns raised by the petitioners in both the Writ Petitions had been attended and addressed. The counsel, therefore, contended that the Writ Petitions be dismissed.

Court’s Observations

The Court took the communications produced by the counsel for the respondents into the record. 

Court’s Decision

The Court directed the first respondent, i.e., The Deputy Registrar / The District Election Officer, to ensure that the elections to both the societies are conducted in strict compliance of the law. The Court also stated that the election process must be video recorded the cost of which are to be incurred by The Secretary / The Election Officer.

The Court further directed the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Melur to provide adequate protection to those who are conducting the election of Office Bearers to the societies mentioned in the petition. Both the Writ Petitions stand disposed of.

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