The Karnataka High Court has held that Registrar of Cooperative Societies, in exercise of its power to conduct enquiry under Section 25 of the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, cannot assume power of a Civil Court to consider evidence in election matters.
The provision empowers the Registrar to, on his own or on the application of majority members of the society, hold an enquiry into the constitution, working and financial condition of a registered society.
A single judge bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna observed,
"Conduct of elections or declaration of elected candidates or a direction seeking holding of fresh election will have to be before the competent civil Court...District Registrar cannot assume power of a civil Court to consider the importance of evidence in election matters in the garb of conducting enquiry under Section 25 of the Act."
It thus dismissed a petition filed by unsuccessful candidates questioning the order by which the Registrar rejected their complaint seeking enquiry into the elections held to Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce. "Conduct of elections or declaration of elected candidates or a direction seeking holding of fresh election will have to be before the competent civil Court," it said.
The bench noted that the complaint seeks an enquiry in the conduct of elections. However, it was of the view that the averments in the complaint undoubtedly require evidence and considering the same would not be within the realm or jurisdiction of the District Registrar, "as it would become a power akin to the Civil Court in deciding an election petition after recording of evidence, which power admittedly the District Registrar does not possess under the statute."
The Court also referred to CMS Evangelical Suvi David Memorial Higher Secondary School Committee v. District Registrar Cheranmahadevi, wherein a full bench of the Madras High Court while interpreting Section 36 of the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act (which is verbatim similar to Section 25 of the Act) held that the power of the Registrar therein cannot be stretched to annulling an election or giving a direction to hold fresh elections.
Accordingly, it observed,
"The petition would not be maintainable before this Court, as the petitioners have to knock the doors of the competent civil Court seeking to annul the elections. The indirect effort made to submit that petitioners are not seeking inquiry into the conduct of elections is neither here nor there, as elections are over, the Executive Committee is in place and the averments in the petition point at corrupt practice like large scale rigging and several other illegalities and irregularities in the conduct of elections."
Further it said that the petitioners have to approach the competent civil Court for appropriate relief. "This Court would not entertain the petition after the elections are over, even for a direction to the District Registrar to enquire into the conduct of elections. No fault can be found with the order of the District Registrar declining to entertain the complaint, as it was in the realm of challenging the elections."
Accordingly it dismissed the petition.
Case Title: SA RA GOVINDU & Others v. THE GOVERNMENT OF KARNATAKA
Case No: WRIT PETITION No.14787 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 479
Date of Order: 16TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2022
Appearance: G.V.CHANDRASHEKAR, SR. ADVOCATE A/W APEKSHA, RAVI SHANKAR S.S, ADVOCATES for petitioners; RASHMI PATEL, HCGP FOR R1 AND R2; PAWAN SHYAM, ADVOCATE FOR R3; K.V.DHANANJAY A/W SUDARSHAN SURESH, ADVOCATES FOR R4; SUDARSHAN SURESH, ADVOCATE FOR R5; SUSHANTH V.A., ADVOCATE FOR R6, 7, 8, 9, 11 AND 12; E.P.RAGHAVENDRA, ADVOCATE FOR R10.