(Note: Isaac Gomes reports from Kolkata on the gist of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Catholic Association of Bengal, held in Kolkata on Sunday 18th September 2016. Isaac was Honorary Treasurer of the Association from September 2012 to September 2015 and was instrumental in bringing about disclosure, transparency and accountability. He refused to toe the dotted line of "little disclosure" and by not joining "Our Club" – to quote one Executive Committee member – he had to pay a price. But the outcome at today's AGM one year later, shows that his firm stand has actually been vindicated).
Catholic Association of Bengal (abbreviated CAB), held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) today, Sunday 18th September 2016, at Vianney Hall, St Thomas' Presbytery, 9/3 Middleton Row, Kolkata. The AGM was chaired by His Grace Archbishop Thomas D'Souza who is Ex-Officio Chairman of the 100+ year-old Association.
After the usual business and placement of audited accounts as per the agenda and consideration of feedback from the assembled members, His Grace Archbishop Thomas D’Souza made the following path-breaking observations in his closing speech:
The Archbishop said that he agreed with the demand that Life Members (as on 31 March 2016, CAB has 682 Life Members) should have voting rights. Till date, only 35-odd Executive Committee Members (comprising parish presidents and secretaries, newly elected office bearers and the immediately outgoing office bearers) had voting rights and were calling all the shots.
One Person One Vote. Earlier some Patrons and Benefactors (on one-time payment of Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively) who were on the CAB Executive Committee, were allowed the special privilege to vote twice – once as an Executive Committee Member and once as a Patron or Benefactor. As per the universal norm and the Indian Constitution, the practice is ONE PERSON ONE VOTE. The Archbishop said that personally he would prefer to adhere to this established norm.
The Archbishop said the present CAB practice of outgoing office bearers (on completion of their term) still remaining on the Executive Committee along with the newly elected office bearers is absurd and should be done away with. This will help the newly elected body work without being influenced by the erstwhile office bearers.
The Archbishop observed that the present statute i.e. Memorandum & Articles of Association of CAB had several gaps and necessitated change. This was a must in view of the fact that CAB was a Catholic Association and all ambiguities needed to be removed.
For this he announced a 5-member Constitutional Committee headed by Fr John Mohandas, the new Spiritual Adviser of CAB.
The Committee is to submit its recommendations (with suggested rewording / changes) in writing to Fr Mohandas by December 2016.
These recommendations will be firmed up and taken up for discussion and finalization at a future meeting of the General Body. The aim is to get the amended constitution ready before the next AGM.
The Archbishop said the present system of taking in Life Members was too simplistic – to quote him "more automatic than automatic". One just filled in the form, deposited the money and became a member. He said membership should not be automatic and that stressed some background check of the applicants must be done before grant of membership.
- Last but not the least, the Rs 17 Lac FD which was a bone of contention thanks to some vested interests who wanted to "strike it off the balance sheet", as reported in CCV after last year's 27th September AGM, has been settled. Due to the hullabaloo created, the money has been duly transferred to the account of Catholic Association of Bengal and converted into a new FD. The Archbishop certainly deserves kudos for this.
The genesis of the above development can be traced from the emails reproduced below: :
From: isaac gomes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2016 12:03 AM
To: Margaret Coelho
Cc: Archbishop Thomas DSouza
Subject: Agenda for CAB AGM to be held on 18th September 2016
Mrs Margaret Coelho
Catholic Association of Bengal
Trust you are keeping in good health.
You would recall that in the last CAB AGM held on 27th September 2016, in spite of repeated demands by the Life Members who were present, His Grace Archbishop Thomas D'Souza did not agree to allow them to vote, which is a fundamental right in any civilised society / association. Life Members are the pillars, the prime members. The reason the Archbishop gave that he had to attend another programme and also he did not like to do things in a hurry and that he would see to the matter at the next AGM.
You would also recall that I had drawn attention on this matter vide email dated 14th August 2015 (copy reproduced below for ready reference) much before the CAB AGM and I am doing so now again.
You would also recall as would the members present at the last AGM, that when the Life Members demanded the Archbishop to grant them voting right,
Eugene Gonsalves, the erstwhile President and President of All India Catholic Union, stood up and had the audacity to say that Life Members were not given voting rights as they might sell their votes for cash. The whole house vehemently objected to this and challenged Eugene for this derogatory remark on the integrity of Life Members. In fact Rahul Sequeira demanded an apology from Eugene which he did not.
It is common knowledge that in the recent suit with BCCI, the Supreme Court clearly stipulated "One person one post, and one person one vote". In keeping with the Constitution of India, this is now binding on the BCCI .
In view of the Archbishop's promise, may I request you, on behalf of the Life Members, to include in the agenda, granting of voting rights to all Life Members and necessary amendments to CAB Memorandum. I am sure the Archbishop will appreciate that without voting rights, the Life Members are mere figures, only for collection of their money, with CAB being controlled and run by a coterie of 35-odd Executive Committee Members.
Also to be included in the agenda in keeping with our Constitution and the Supreme Court judgement. is is the proposal, One Person One Vote.
I have marked a copy to the Archbishop in his capacity as Ex-Officio Chairman of the Association.
Isaac Harold Gomes
Copy of email dated 14 August 2015
CAB Election at 27th Sept AGM: One Member One Vote
To: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: CAB Election at 27th Sept AGM : One Member One Vote
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2015 05:27:42 +0000
MR FRANCIS GOMES CHAIRPERSON – ELECTION COMMITTEE
CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION OF BENGAL (CAB)
9/3, MIDDLETON ROW KOLKATA 700 071
At the 12th August 2015 meeting between the Election Committee and CAB Office Bearers, it was mentioned by Alexander Anthony, CAB President that Benefactors and Patrons were entitled to two votes – one as an Executive Committee Member and one as Benefactor or Patron.
You would recall that at the said meeting I responded that nowhere in the CAB Constitution this TWO VOTE concept was mentioned and that as per the Indian Constitution it does not hold water. All that Alexander Anthony could say that this practice (read `malpractice') was being followed by CAB for many years (without most members knowing about it)!
If this is allowed, then it defies the Indian Constitution which follows "One Person One Vote" natural law. When all over the civilized world this has been the time-honoured practice.
If one person is allowed two votes, then the President and Prime Minister of India would be the first two persons to exercise this right: One as an Indian Citizen and one as heading the Executive in their capacities. But even they are not demanding this privilege as our President is doing.
Since the above "One person Two Votes" concept is in contravention of the Indian Constitution, may I request you not to leave any loopholes and announce through a notification, once and for all, the One Member One Vote practice?
Isaac Harold Gomes – Honorary Treasurer
Copy: Archbishop Thomas D'Souza as Ex-Officio Chairperson of CAB
Given below is an Extract from the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
Extracts from the representation of the people act,1951 Right to vote–
CHAPTER 1, PARA 5.1)
EXTRACT FROM CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
62. Right to vote-
(1) No person who is not, and except as expressly provided by this Act, every person who is, for the time being entered in the electoral roll of any constancy shall be entitled to vote in that constituency. (2) No person shall vote at an election in any constituency if he is, subject to any of the disqualifications referred to in section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950) (3) No person shall vote at a General Election in more than one constituency of the same class and if a person votes in more than one such constituency, his votes in all such constituencies shall be void.
(4) No person shall at any election vote in the same constituency more than once, notwithstanding that his name may have been registered in the electoral roll for that constituency more than once, and if he does so vote, all his votes in that constituency shall be void.
(5) No person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise or is in the lawful custody of the police.