CS Executive Notes of Module 1 in PDF – ECL – Societies Registration Act 1860

CS Executive Economic and Commercial Law Notes

CS Executive Economic and Commercial Laws Notes – Societies Registration Act, 1860

CS Executive Notes on Societies Registration Act, 1860 Notes
You can download CS Executive Notes of ECL- Full Chapter as well as other subject notes from this website

A registered society is a legal entity but it is not a body corporate. It is separate from its members. It can own properties. It is capable of suing or being sued.

Registration of Society

Minimum 7 individuals required to register a society. A society may be registered for the promotion of literature, science or fine arts or diffusion of useful knowledge and political education or charitable purposes.

Purposes for which a Society can be registered

According to Section 20 of the main Act, a society may be registered for

  1. Grant of charitable assistance.
  2. Creation of military orphan funds.
  3. Societies established at the several Presidencies of India.
  4. Promotion of –
    • Science
    • Literature
    • Fine Arts
    • Instructions or diffusion of useful knowledge
    • Diffusion of political education
    • Foundation or maintenance of libraries or reading rooms
    • Public museum and galleries of paintings
    • Works of art
    • Collections of natural history
    • Mechanical and philosophical investments
    • Instruments
    • Designs

Various States have added other objects like social welfare, sports & games, environment, compassion of living creatures, recreation, athletics, cultural activities, research work, welfare of physically handicapped etc.


  • A charitable purpose includes religious purpose (Hindu Public and another v. Rajdhani Puja Samithee and others AIR 1999 SC 964).

Documents are required to be filed with the Registrar of Societies for registration of a society:

  1. Covering letter requesting for registration stating various documents annexed to it addressed to the registering authority and signed by all the subscribers to the Memorandum or by a person authorised by all of the them.
  2. Memorandum of Association (in duplicate) containing
    1. name of the society;
    2. the objects of the society;
    3. the names, addresses and occupation of the members of the governing body;
    4. the place of registered office of the Society, and
    5. the names, addresses and full signatures of the seven or more persons subscribing their names to the memorandum of Association. Their signatures should be witnessed.
  3. Rules & Regulations/Bye-laws (in duplicate) duly signed by atleast 3 members of the governing body.
  4. Affidavit on non-judicial stamp paper of requisite value by the President or secretary of the society duly attested by Oath Commissioner or Notary Public or Magistrate of first class.
  5. Documentary proof such as rent receipt or property tax receipt in respect of the registered office of the Society or no-objection of the owner of the premises.
  6. Registration fee in cash or by demand draft.

The formalities and requirements may differ from State to State. Hence, it is advised that the applicant should contact the registering authority of the State in advance.

On registration, the society becomes a legal entity or a judicial person apart from its members. Its Rules & Regulations bound its members. It must confine its activities to the sphere embraced by its objects. A non-registered society may exist in fact but not in law. A unregistered society cannot claim benefits under the Income tax Act, 1961.

Rules & Regulations

Rules & Regulations bind members of the society. The Rules that are inconsistent with the provisions of the Act are inoperative although registered with the Registrar of Societies. The Rules & Regulations of a society may provide for–

  1. the conditions of admissions of members,
  2. the liability of members for fines, forfeitures under certain circumstances,
  3. the consequence of non-payment of any subscription or fine registration and expulsion of members,
  4. the appointment and removal of trustees and their powers,
  5. the manner of appointing and removing the governing body,
  6. the manner in which the notice of meetings may be given,
  7. the quorum necessary for the transactions of business at meetings of the society,
  8. the manner of making, altering and rescinding regulations,
  9. the investment of funds, keeping of accounts and for annual or periodical audit of account,
  10. the manner of dissolving the society,
  11. the determination upon the dissolution that the property be utilised by the Government or others in particular manner,
  12. matters to be provided in bye-laws and the manner in which they shall be made,
  13. such other matters as may be thought expedient having reference to the nature and objects of the society.

Bye-laws of Societies

A society can make its bye-laws in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the society. If the rules do not provide for the making of bye-laws, bye-laws can be made at a general meeting of the society at which concurrent votes of 3-5th of the members present shall be necessary.

The bye-laws of a society may provide for:

  1. The business hours of the society;
  2. The objects of the society;
  3. The activities of the society in furtherance of its objects;
  4. The name of the person or officer, if any, authorised to sue or to be sued on behalf of the society;
  5. The name of other person or officer who is empowered to give directions in regard to the business of the society;
  6. Enrolment of members –
    1. Qualifications for membership, classification, restrictions and conditions, if any, therefor,
    2. The entrance and other fee, or subscription, if any, to be collected from members,
    3. The dates prescribed for payment of the amount specified in sub-clause (ii) above and levy of penalties or fine, if any, imposed on defaulting members.
  7. Removal of members, the circumstances under which members could be removed from the rolls and the procedure for such removal and appeal, if any, against such removal;
  8. Rights, applications, privileges of members;
  9. The manner in which the society shall transact its business;
  10. The constitution of the Committee and qualifications of the members of the Committee, their term of office and the procedure for their appointment and reappointment;
  11. The preparation and filing with the concerned Registrar, of records, annual lists or other statements;
  12. Audit of accounts and the balance-sheet for the financial year;
  13. The supply of copies of bye-laws, the receipt and expenditure account and of the balance sheet to the members on application and the fee payable for the same;
  14. Imposition of fine, if any, for breach of the provisions of the bye-laws by any member or officer;
  15. The mode of custody, application and investment of the funds of the society and the extent and conditions of such investment;
  16. Funds earmarked specifically for the purpose of making provisions for dependent of a deceased or disabled member and the quantum of payment to be made thereof;
  17. Arrangements for transactions of day-to-day business of the society, the expenditure to be incurred therefor, the staff to be employed and condition of services of such employees;
  18. (i) Conduct of annual general meetings and procedure therefor,
    (ii) Conduct of extraordinary general meetings and procedure therefor and the number of members required for making a requisition in writing, calling for such a meeting,
  19. Exhibition of the Register of Members, the books containing minutes and the books of accounts at the registered office of the society during business hours for inspection by its members free of charge.

Members — Their Rights and Liabilities

A member means a person who has —

  1. been admitted to the society according to its rules and regulations;
  2. paid subscription provided in the rules;
  3. signed the roll or list of members of the society, and
  4. not resigned or ceased from the membership of the society.

Any arrear of subscription amount for a period of exceeding 3 months is disqualification for continuing to be a member and vote.


  • No one can claim admission to a society as a matter of right on payment of the prescribed subscription. The discretion of the governing body is final concerning grant or refusal of admission to a person.

When members treated as strangers?

A member of the society is liable to be sued as stranger in the following cases:

  1. When he is in arrear of a subscription which he is bound to pay according to the rules, or
  2. When he has detained any property of the society, or
  3. When he has destroyed any property of the society.

A member is subject to prosecution and punishment as stranger for committing the following offences: If he

  1. steals, or purloins, or embezzles any money or other property or
  2. willfully and maliciously destroy or injures any property of the Society or
  3. forges any deed, bond, security for money, receipt or other instrument whereby the funds of the Society may be recovered when accrued in any Court.

Rights of members

The members of a society have rights to –

  • receive notice of all special and annual general meetings;
  • vote at all meetings.
  • resolve all disputes among members and society or inter se;
  • receive copies of the rules and regulations and bye-laws.

Liabilities of members

  • A member may be sued as a stranger by the society.
  • Member, who is guilty of an offence to the society, is punishable as a stranger;
  • Member causing breach of any rule or regulation or bye-law of the society is liable to pay penalty under the Bye-Laws.
  • Member who is guilty of misfeasance or breach of trust or misapplication of funds in relation to the society shall be accountable to make good the loss so caused to the society.

Property of Society

It is presumed that the property, both movable and immovable, belonging to the Society, vests in trustees. But if it is not vested in trustees then it shall be deemed to be vested in the governing body of such Society for the time being. In all civil or criminal proceedings the property may be described as the property of the governing body of such society by their proper title.

The Act does not create in the members of the registered Society any interest other than that of the bare trustees. A property, which has vested in the trustees before registration of the Society, becomes as from, the registration of the Society, a property belonging to the Society and must be deemed to be the property of the Society.

Working and Management of Society

As the society is a legal person having no physical existence, its governing body is its brain. Its activities are managed, executed and supervised by the governing body. It has to work within the objects of the society in accordance with the rules, regulations and bye-laws and to carry out the statutory duties under the main Act or the corresponding State Act. The governing body shall also be constituted in accordance with the rules and regulations of the society. The property of the society vests in the governing body and not in the members. The filing and defending the suits by the society shall continue in the original form and the changes in the governing body shall not affect.

There should be minimum 3 members of the governing body. Its members are either elected or nominated as per the rules and regulations of the society. The term of office of members is 3 years and members can enjoy two terms. However, the term, retirement, expulsion are governed by the rules and regulations of the society.

The members of the governing body are the trustees of the properties of the society. They have to look after and manage the properties of the society. Here, property means both movable and immovable property. The properties of the society vest in the trustees and when there is no trustee, in the governing body.

The members of governing body is collectively responsible and accountable to comply with the statutory provisions of the Act for carrying out the functions of the society to achieve its objective(s) for which it is set-up. The duties are detailed hereunder:-

  1. To hold annual general meeting as per the rules and regulations of the society for laying before such meeting the statement of activities, Income & Expenditure Account and other information as provided in the rules and regulations for the purpose;
  2. A list of the names, addresses and occupations of the governors, council, directors, committee or other governing body to which the management of the society is entrusted, is to be filed with the Registrar or such authority as prescribed once in a year either within 14 days of the date of holding such meeting or in the month of January every year.
  3. To hold extra-ordinary general meeting to transact some special business, which cannot be waited or delayed, till the holding of the annual general meeting. The purposes of such meeting may be to amend, alter or change in name or address or extensions of operation etc.
  4. To report changes or alterations made in the managing, governing body or in the rules of the society to the Registrar.
  5. To file notice of situation of the registered office of the society and of any change therein with the Registrar.
  6. To register amendment in Memorandum of Association or Bye-laws with the Registrar by way of an application with a copy of the special resolution of the amendment with filing fee.
  7. To supply copies of the Bye-laws, the Receipts/Incomes & Expenditure Account and Balance Sheet to the members of the society on their application with the fees, if any, prescribed by the society.
  8. To invest and apply the funds and properties of the society in a manner as a prudent man will apply his own funds.
  9. To keep and maintain a register of members of the society in accordance with the rules and regulations of the society.
  10. To display the name of the society prominently at its registered office and other places of business.
  11. To produce or submit periodical statement of Receipts Incomes & Expenditure A/c, Assets & Liabilities of the society.
  12. To file a certified copy of every special resolution duly signed by an authorised officer of the society with the Registrar within the prescribed time.
  13. To keep and maintain minutes of the meetings of the governing body and general body correctly and truly at the registered office of the society.
  14. To retain all the important documents permanently.
  15. To prepare periodical Accounts of the society and get them audited and to file Income-Tax Return, and
  16. To attend all other duties as may be provided in the rules and regulations of the society.

Amendment or Alteration

The objects of a society are its constitution and the society has to act within the framework of its objects. Any act done by the society beyond the objects clause shall be ultra vires. The following steps are required for alteration, extension or abridgment of the objects of a society –

  1. Submission of the proposal by the governing body to the members of the society;
  2. 10 days’ notice to members about holding of a special general meeting;
  3. Convening a special meeting for consideration and passing of the proposal by 3/5th of the members;
  4. Convening second special general meeting after a month; and
  5. Confirmation to the proposal by 3/5th of the members present at the second special meeting.

Suits by and against Society

A Society registered under the Act is a legal entity. It is capable of suing and be sued in the name of the president, chairman or principal, secretary or trustees as determined by the rules and regulations. If there is no such prescribed determination then in the name of such person as appointed by the governing body for the occasion. If no such person is nominated by the governing body on an application made to it, then a person having a claim against society may sue the president or chairman or secretary or trustee.

No suit or proceeding in any Civil Court shall abate or discontinue if the person in whose name the suit has been brought has died or ceased to fill the character. Such suit shall be continued in the name of or against the successor of such person.

Enforcement of Judgement against Society

It is the property of the Society against whom the judgment is enforced although the judgment is named against the person or officer on behalf of the society. It will not be enforced against the person or officer or his property. The application for execution shall set forth the fact of the party against whom it shall have been recovered.

Amalgamation or Division of the Society

A society may be amalgamated with any other society, either wholly or partially by the governing bodies of the societies for the better utilisation of the properties, resources or any other purpose. The procedure is mandatory.

The following actions are to be complied with —

  1. Submission of the proposal of amalgamation by the governing body to the members of the society by a printed report;
  2. Holding special general meeting by giving 10 days’ notice to the members for consideration and passing resolution for the proposed amalgamation by 3/5th majority of the members, present thereat;
  3. Convening another special general meeting after a month for confirmation to the first resolution passed at the first special general meeting by 3/5th majority of the members present thereat.

The majority of a body cannot alter the fundamental principles of the body unless such power is specially reserved. The Government may order division or amalgamation of a society after giving the society an opportunity to represent against such proposal.

Dissolution of Society

Dissolution of a society becomes necessary where the objects for which it is formed, has been fulfilled or where the purposes for which it is formed, have become irrelevant, invalid or inoperative or by passing of a resolution by 3/5th majority of the members present at a meeting to dissolve the society for utilisation of its assets for some other better uses. A society may be dissolved forthwith or within the agreed time. The following steps are to be taken:–

  1. Decision of the governing body;
  2. Convene a special general meeting of the members by giving a requisite notice for consideration and passing resolution by 3/5th majority of the members present thereat;
  3. Decision as to dissolve it forthwith or at a later time agreed upon by them.
  4. Decision for the actions to be taken for disposal of properties and settlement of claims and liabilities as per the rules and regulations of the society; and
  5. Delegate authority to the person(s) of the governing body to comply with the decisions accordingly.

Where any Government is a member of the society or has contributed the funds to the society or is otherwise interested therein, the society shall have to obtain prior consent of such Government for the purpose.

Where any dispute arises on dissolution of a society relating to adjustment of its affairs, it should be referred to the principle Court of the original civil jurisdiction of the District where the chief building of the society is situated. The District Civil Court has the jurisdiction to decide the dispute of a society.

Dissolution by the Registrar

The main Act does not provide for dissolution of societies by the Registrar. Various States, of course, have made provisions for dissolution by the Registrar under the following circumstances—

  1. Where the office of the society has ceased to be in the State of registration, or
  2. Where the society has shifted its office from the State of registration to some other State, or
  3. Where the activities of the society are considered subversive, or
  4. Where it is carrying on any unlawful activity, or
  5. Where it has allowed any unlawful activity to be carried on within any premises under its control,
  6. Where the registered society has contravened any of the provisions of the Act or the rules made thereunder, or
  7. Where the registered society is insolvent or must necessarily become so, or
  8. Where the business of such registered society is conducted fraudulently or not in accordance with the bye-laws or the objects specified in the memorandum of the society, or
  9. Where the society contravened any provision of any other law for the time being in force, or
  10. Where the number of members of the society is reduced below seven, or
  11. Where the society has ceased to function for more than three years, or
  12. Where the society is unable to pay its debts or meet its liability, or
  13. Where the registration of the society has been cancelled on the ground that its activities or proposed activities have been or will be opposed to public policy.

Dissolution by the Court

The main Act does not provide for dissolution by the Court. But in some States, the Court may order for dissolution of a society on application by 10% of its members or the Registrar on having been satisfied that any one or more of the following circumstances exist:–

  1. If there is any contravention by the society of the provisions of the Act, or
  2. If the number of members is less than seven, or
  3. If the society has ceased to function for more than three years, or
  4. If the society is unable to pay its debts or meet its liabilities, or
  5. If it is proper that the society has to be cancelled on the ground of its activities or
  6. If proposed activities have been or will be opposed to the public policy.
  7. If the activities of the society constitute a public nuisance,
  8. If the activities of the society are otherwise opposed to public policy.

Dissolution by the Government

The Government may by written order containing detailed reasons, dissolve a society. Before passing such order an opportunity has to be given to the society for representation against dissolution. Any order of withdrawal of registration without notice or opportunity to the society for representation in the matter shall be against the rule of natural justice.

Consequences of Dissolution

Dissolution of a society results in cessation of its activities. Its liabilities are to be settled suitably and its surplus assets are to be given to another society or the Government in terms of its rules and regulations. If the rules do not provide in the matter, the governing body of the society shall take appropriate steps with requisite majority vote or as directed by the Registrar or the Court. But in no circumstances, the surplus assets of the dissolved society can be paid or distributed amongst its members or any of them.

Registrar of Societies — Powers & Duties

The main Act makes an indirect reference to the powers of the Registrar under different Sections. Under the corresponding Acts of various States different powers and duties are given to the Registrar. These are —

  1. Allow inspection of documents by any person and provide certified copy thereof on payment of fees as prescribed,
  2. Call information, explanation or returns from the societies relating to the affairs, employees, documents filed, accounts etc.,
  3. Hold inquiries and settle disputes suo moto or at the request of the members of the governing body or other members,
  4. Investigate into the affairs of the society,
  5. Cancel registration on happening of certain events,
  6. Refuse registration, if the name is undesirable or identical or the objects are contrary to any other law etc.,
  7. Order amendment of Memorandum of Association, rules and regulations, bye-laws of society,
  8. Seize and take possession of the books and records, funds and property of the society,
  9. Summon and enforce attendance of witness including the parties interested for giving evidence and producing documents,
  10. Order for auditing of the accounts of the society,
  11. Compounding offences on application with fee,
  12. Settle disputes regarding election of the office bearers,
  13. Restoration of the property or money of the society,
  14. Removal of the defunct society from the register of societies,
  15. Condonation of delay in filing of documents,
  16. Appointing liquidator.

Offences and Penalties

The main Act does not provide for any offences and penalties for breach or contravention of its provisions.

However, various State Governments have amended the main Act to provide for offences and penalties for non-compliance. No Court inferior to that of a Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence punishable under the main Act. No Court shall take cognizance of any offence except upon complaint made by the Registrar of Societies or any authorised person by him.

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