RTI can be a great tool in the hands of Housing Society Members to bring in more transparency in the functioning of the Managing Committee.

Do you find the Managing Committee of your Housing Society acting difficult in parting with information that you are desperately seeking for? Do you feel some irregularities are going on in your CHS and the facts are being hidden? You can use the RTI act to get the desired information through the proper channel.

You have also been conferred with rights as an individual member to seek vital information by carrying out the Inspection of Books and Records under the Bye-Laws No. 23(B) of Bye-Laws governing the Co-operative Housing Societies in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

In a recent development in Mumbai, a member of a CHS did exactly that to unearth some of the irregularities that were going on in his housing society. Sure enough, his efforts paid off, and taking a cue, many house owners can now question their society Managing Committee members by using the RTI act if they felt things were not right.

A member of one of the Housing Societies wanted to find out details about certain irregularities in his co-operative society, but was met with indifference. A provision in the Maharashtra State Co-Op Soc Act 1960, Sec 73(1AB) and Rule 58-A, which requires a member elected to the Managing Committee to execute a bond, taking personal responsibility of his action as a member of the Managing Committee within specified time frame turned the situation.

It is established by the Mumbai High Court that if the bond is not executed within the required time frame, the Managing Committee member is deemed to be disqualified to continue as the member of the Managing Committee. This member wanted to know whether all the members of the Managing Committee had executed the bond at all.

If the Managing Committee is not being transparent the individual member of the society can appeal to the registrar for the information required. In the event of a refusal or evasion by the registrar who is a government officer, the individual can use the RTI act to elicit information about his cooperative society.

Since this member did not receive any reply within 30 days of his appeal for information to the first appellate at the Registrar of the Co-operative housing societies, he appealed again to the deputy registrar and this time 90 days passed without a reply.

Finally with the help of his Advocate, he filed an application under the RTI act, with the State Information Commission (SIC). This time his action brought results. The SIC issued an order in which it pointed out the fact that the Managing Committee members of the society in question had failed to execute the bond for more than 400 days. Several other irregularities also came to light with regard to the mismanagement of society’s fund to a large extent, thereby exposing the wrong doings of the committee members.

This was at an instance of RTI being used to find out the irregularities of a housing society. Some of the issues regarding housing society functioning and irregularities by the government and civic authorities regarding important documents can be questioned by an individual or a group of individuals under the RTI act. In any case the CHS is bound to divulge information to its members under the society byelaws. But in many cases they are found to be ignoring the queries, sometimes due to mismanagement or due to vested interests. The use of RTI act comes in handy in such cases.

Most Executive Members do not know to what extent an individual is empowered to take action against an earring committee. This shows the way to more individuals to take action not just against the housing society but also the society to take action against authorities like the Municipal Corporation and the builders if some irregularities are found in obtaining the Occupation Certificates, handing over of the Conveyance Deeds and other such issues. It is important that the ordinary members be able to use the RTI act against the regulatory authorities to elicit information, if it is not coming directly from the authority concerned.

In most cases the members and the Managing Committee are not aware of the rights of the members and the responsibility of the committee of a CHS. We pay for maintenance but don't know how and where our money is being used. Many of us do not know how to use the law to elicit information. Hence, the awareness has to be created and such examples will help us understand our rights and the workings of the law better.

All documents, records, the working and the management of a Cooperative Housing Society come under the provisions of the Right to Information Act. Hence a member can demand information for further scrutiny, appeal or instruction.

The right to access information or documents pertaining to cheques, bank account statements, tenders, contracts, share certificates in a cooperative housing society cannot be withheld on any grounds. A member can approach the RTI officer about any dispute with the society or Redevelopment Programs being grounded if the executive members refuse to answer his queries. Please read the following carefully:

Private co-operative housing societies are covered under section 2 (f) of the RTI Act 2005:

Sec. 2(f) "information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.
How section 2 (f) applies to a private co-operative housing society:

As per sec. 2(f) of the act information which can be accessed by a Public Authority from a Private Body can be provided under the RTI Act. In the context of a Co-operative Housing Society Limited, Private Body is a Co-operative Housing Society and Public Authority is Registrar of Co-operative Societies.

PIO & FAA of Registrar of Co-Operative Societies:

1) Public Information Officer (PIO) - Deputy Registrar.

2) First Appellant Authority (FAA) - District Deputy Registrar.

Flow of RTI application filed for seeking information from a private Co-operative Housing Society:

This is how it works if one would like to seek information from a Co-operative Housing Society Ltd:

1) One can file a RTI application with the PIO i.e. Deputy Registrar Co-operative Societies, where the particular Society has been registered.

2) Deputy Registrar will forward this application to the Chairman/Secretary of the Co-operative Society.

3) Chairman/Secretary of the Society will then provide the requested information to the Deputy Registrar.

4) Finally Deputy Registrar will provide the applicant with the requested information.

At present some Deputy Registrars orders/directs the Chairman/Secretary of the Society to provide the information directly to the applicant, thereby skipping the 2nd, 3rd and 4rth step mentioned above and so the Chairman/Secretary of the society will then directly provide you with the requested information under the directions/order of the Deputy Registrar.

Experts disclose that the Right to Information Act is a central act adopted by all state governments. Under the right to information act not just society members but also outsiders like a housing activist or any aggrieved party can call for information. RTI means “Right Thinking Indians”. Use of RTI helps to ensure that.

In many instances of grave misuse of power by the Managing Committees have been reported during the recent years. In such a scenario, another tool to empower an individual to exert his right to information for resolving genuine problems is a welcome move.

The Supreme Court in a recent judgment directed that the Right to Information is a part of the fundamental right granted to citizens under article 19(1) of the constitution of India. Information is vital to the smooth functioning of a democracy, by way of allowing greater transparency and accountability.

Please educate yourself and caution your friendly neighbors to be vigilant from Irregularities and illegalities in Redevelopment by the Builders, Illegal gratifications showered by Builders on corrupt members of Managing Committees, Rampant Corruption in BMC, Flagrant violation of Rules and Regulations by the Builders, how to beware of Cheat and Fraud Builders and their criminal and felonious acts.