The Punjab & Haryana High Court has granted stay on transfer of assets by Rawalpindi Self-supporting Co-operative Cinema Society Ltd., Ludhiana, which owned the property popularly known as “Society Cinema” and is now being reconstructed as a prestigious mall in Ludhiana. The court examined the provisions of Punjab Self-supporting Co-operative Society Act, 2006, after members of the society approached it over alleged mismanagement.
The court took note of the fact that the President of the management of the society had sold the property to a private corporation, M/s Periwal Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., by entering into an agreement in which her husband represented the private corporation as its Managing Director. The sale agreement shows an amount of Rs.16 crores received, while the sale deed reflects only Rs.4 crores. Further, there is a discrepancy of Rs.12 crores which are missing from the accounts/books of the society.
The court directed the respondents, including the State of Punjab and the Registrar appointed under the Act, to file reply to the petitioners' claims. The court also issued notice to the society on payment of process fee and stayed any further sale/transaction pertaining to its assets till the next date of hearing on 3 May 2023.
The petitioners' counsel argued that the sale to the private corporation was not permissible under the Act and raised questions of mismanagement. The counsel also claimed that the Registrar had not taken any action on their representation despite there being deliberate violations of the terms and conditions in the transfer of the society's assets.
The case has attracted controversy due to the involvement of the President's husband in the sale to the private corporation and the missing funds. Some critics have questioned the integrity of the society's management and the efficacy of the regulatory framework.
The court's order highlights the importance of compliance with legal and ethical standards in the management of co-operative societies and the need for effective regulatory oversight. The case also underscores the risks of conflicts of interest and lack of transparency in the sale of assets by such societies.