In Focus

'Societies cannot bully, force members to stop meat business, it’s illegal, unconstitutional'

Nobody can be forced to make ‘applications for change in business’ or prevented solely because it may involve meat. Such moves are violative of one’s fundamental freedom of trade and commerce as laid down in the Constitution of India through  Article 19 (1)(g). Any law or rule ‘created’ by the society, to affect this right, is outright unconstitutional


I am an owner of a commercial premises based at Colaba in Mumbai from where I ran my travel agency for long but have now had to close it down owing to the detrimental effect the global COVID-19 pandemic has dealt upon the tourism industry. I am in the process of converting my business to a packed frozen food distributorship.
> Do I need to take any permissions from the cooperative housing society where my premises stand?
> Also, can anybody from the society take objection to the nature of my work, frozen meat products in my case?
> I have been asked to seek 'permissions' for the same through my society. Is it necessary?

Gulshan Harjani, Mumbai 

Mr Harjani,

Your issue isn't unique but extends to many members like you in some old housing societies across Mumbai and in certain cities particularly among highly-polarised and opinionated members across India.

The choice of food either by way of consumption, distribution or sale is always put into question, challenged and bullied into submission or extinction by some all-vegetarian or vegetarian majority filled cooperative housing society.

All of this happens without the basis of law. Now, for the record, any property owned by an individual in a society, either in the form of residential or commercial premises, belong in all entirety to the share-holding owner member without the interference of anybody else in person or through a collective, however official, like a managing committee of a cooperative housing society.

You have the full and final rights over your premises and can exercise personal choice well within the limits as laid down by law.
No Managing Committee or another member can interfere with that right that is vested into you by the law of the land.
Your personal rights over your property must be within the ambit of the law - that is in accordance to the licensing processes as laid down by the industry in question such as the food authority in the case of the food industry, the local civic authority for the shop and establishment processes, police clearances for the purpose of non-resident/out-of-town workers’ identification and the more recent norms of physical distancing, limits to number of workers at workplace as laid down by the state government, wearing of masks and other such COVID-19 norms.

That apart, should your society's managing committee demand you seek permissions for the initiation of any new business or conversion to another, you must tell them to put it down in writing and immediately proceed to the Registrar, police and legal authorities making pertinent representations before them.

You are not compelled by, in your case, the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act or Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Rule or the Model Bye Laws, to submit such a demand. Nobody can act against your own interests with regard to your own property.

Any attempts to do so tantamount to a violation of your personal rights, fundamental freedoms and cooperative housing society laws.
Often, a few high-handed Managing Committee members, spurred by their own food consumption patterns, attempt to force a few members - usually in minority - to fall in line and comply. 
This they do by passing wrong and illegal representation to the authorities such as police and civic on falsified grounds of 'nuisance' and even show 'resolutions' towards this action. Any 'resolution' signed by any managing committee whether voted in majority or even in full, is illegal and must be ignored till it is ratified by the Registrar who is bound to act within the law.

No society can decide what its members eat and trade in, over and above the restrictions laid down by law.

And, should any member or society feel that they are inconvenienced by the action of any such individual, they may adopt a legal route and file a case against the member after serving a legal notice.

Forcing a member to comply by sheer force of numbers or threats of complaints and action isn't just wrong but invites relevant action under the law.

You may approach the police for threats or imminent interference with your rights as a free owner, the court should you wish to file a suit against the society, the Registrar for harassment by the managing committee or any of its members or the Consumer Court for deficiency in service by the managing committee members and get an order for redress or compensation to loss of business as suffered.

Solicitor Gajanan Khergamker

Opinion provided here is in good faith and Without Prejudice. Cooperative Housing Society members victimised by arbitrary rules and laws created by errant committees or Managing Committee members wishing to address issues created by offending members may send in their legal queries. To avail a legal service, an expert opinion or an appointment with Solicitor and Property Law Expert Gajanan Khergamker, call 8080441593 or contact here.


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