(1.)The short question that arises for determination in this case is whether the dispute that has arisen between the petitioner and the third respondent, the Kerala University Cooperative Stores Limited, No. 1955, a Cooperative Society registered under the Travancore - Cochin Cooperative Societies Act, 1951, is one which would fall under S.60 of the said Act reading as under:
"60(1). If any dispute touching the business of a registered society (other than a dispute regarding disciplinary action taken by the society or its committee against a paid servant of the society) arises --
(a) among members, past members and persons claiming through members, past members and deceased members, or
(b) between a member, past member or person claiming through a member, past member or deceased member and the society, its committee or any officer, agent or servant of the society, or
(c) between the society or its committee and any past committee, any officer, agent or servant, or any past officer, past agent, or past servant or the nominee, heirs or legal representatives of any deceased officer, deceased agent or deceased servant of the society, or
(d) of between the society and any other registered society, such dispute shall be referred to the Registrar for decision.
Explanation:-- A claim by a registered society for any debt or demand due to it from a member, past member or the nominee, heir or legal representative of a deceased member, whether such debt or demand be admitted or not is a dispute touching the business of the society within the meaning of this sub-section.
(2) The Registrar may, on receipt of such reference.--
(a) decide the dispute himself, or
(b) transfer it for disposal to any person who has been invested by the Government with powers in that behalf, or
(c) subject to such rules as may be prescribed, refer it for disposal to an arbitrator or arbitrators :
Provided that if any party to the dispute applies for action being taken under clause (c), the Registrar shall act accordingly."
The second respondent has made a reference, purporting to be under S.60(2)(c) of the Act, to an arbitrator, who is the first respondent, relating to a dispute existing between the petitioner and the third respondent, which, presumably, according to the second respondent, would fall under S.60. Before the first respondent, the petitioner took up the stand that the reference is bad, in that there is no dispute that could be referred to the first respondent by the Registrar. On this point, the arbitrator has held against the petitioner as evidenced by Ext. P. 5. The main prayer in this petition is that Ext. P. 5 should be quashed. I doubt whether a petition such as the one for setting aside a decision of an arbitrator like the first respondent would lie. But I am assuming such a petition is Maintainable. I am therefore dealing with the question as to whether the dispute alleged to exist between the first and third respondents is one that would fall under S.60.
(2.)The admitted facts are that the petitioner happened to be a clerk for some time in the third respondent society. Later, he was promoted as Head clerk and finally designated as Manager, in the year 1943. In that capacity, he worked for 17 years. He apparently was also conducting a Printing Press during this period of 17 years. It is submitted that the Society's printing work was done by the petitioner in his Press. It is also a fact that very large amounts moved from the Society to the Printing Press during this period and the averment in para 6 of the plaint that was presented before the Registrar is in these terms:
"6. The 1st defendant was carrying on his work in a dual capacity -- as Manager of the Stores and as proprietor of his personal concern. Thus, he, as Manager, was having various transactions with the Alliance Printing works. In such dealings he allowed huge sums belonging to the stores to be locked up with him as proprietor of the Alliance Printing Works. He was fraudulently misappropriating the funds belonging to the Stores and so long as he was in office the fraud was not known to anybody nor could it be brought to light."
(3.)I understand the allegations in the above paragraph to mean that the petitioner, while he was Manager, misappropriated the funds belonging to the society and utilised them for the Printing Press. If that be so, none of the questions of law mooted before me arises for decision. While he was the Manager, he allowed huge sums of money belonging to the society to be locked up in his business. The petitioner, being a past servant of the Society, such a dispute relating to the claim of the Society, will definitely fall under S.60(1)(c) of the Act. So the reference made by the Registrar under S.60(2) to the first respondent is correct and I see no reason to set aside the reference or Ext. P. 5.