Societies Registration Act, 1860
Purpose of the Act is to provide for registration of literary, scientific and charitable societies.
Societies Registration Act is a Central Act. However, ‘unincorporated literary, scientific, religious and other societies and associations’ is a State Subject (Entry 32 of List II of Seventh Schedule to Constitution, i.e. State List). Thus, normally, there should have been only State Laws on this subject. However, Societies Registration Act was passed in 1860, i.e. much before bifurcation of power between State and Centre was specified. Though the Act is still in force, it has been specifically repealed in many States and those States have their own Acts. Thus, practically, the Central Act is mainly of academic interest.
Societies to which the Act applies – Following societies can be registered under the Act – * Charitable societies * Military orphan funds or societies * Societies established for promotion of science, literature, or for fine arts * Societies established for instruction and diffusion of useful knowledge, diffusion of political education * Societies established for maintenance of libraries or reading rooms for general public * Societies established for Public museums and galleries for paintings or other works of art, collections of natural history, mechanical and philosophical inventions, instruments or designs [section 20]
Registration – Any seven or more persons associated for literary, scientific or charitable purpose can register a trust by subscribing their names to memorandum of association. [section 1]. [The Act envisages filing the memorandum with Registrar of Joint Stock Companies. Practically, the memorandum will have to be filed with Registrar appointed under corresponding State Act]. – – The memorandum of association shall contain name and objects of society and names and addresses of governors/council/ directors or other governing body. – – Copy of rules and regulations of society will also have to be filed along with memorandum. [section 2].
Annual list of managing body to be filed – Annual list of managing body should be filed within 14 days after AGM. [section4]. If there is no provision of AGM, then list should be filed in January every year. [section 4]. – – The governing body may be termed as governors, council, directors, committee, trustees or other body to whom by rules and regulations of society, the management of the affairs of society is entrusted. [section 16].
Society is not a body corporate – Society is not a body corporate. This is evident from following – (a) Entry 32 in List II of Schedule to Constitution itself uses the words ‘unincorporated’ (b) As per section 4, property of society vests in governing body, if not vested in trustees. Thus, property does not vest in society as such. (c) Section 6 states that suit by or against society can be only in name of President, Chairman, Principal Secretary or Trustees, as determined by rules of society. Thus, suit cannot be in name of society as such.
Office bearers not personally liable – Section 8 makes it clear that though suit against society is instituted in name of some person, he is not personally liable, but property of society will be liable.
Members of society – A member is a person who is admitted according to rules and regulations of society and who pays subscription, or signed the roll or list of members, and who has not resigned from membership. [section 15]. A member can be sued as stranger for arrear in subscription or if he injures or destroys property of society. [section 10]. Member guilty of offence of stealing, embezzlement or wilful destruction of society property can be punished as stranger, i.e. not a member. [section 11].
Alteration, extension of purposes, amlagamation or dissolution – Society can alter, extend or abridge is purposes, or amalgamate with other society after approval of general meeting of members. [section 12]. Society can be dissolved if three-fifths of members determine to do so. [section 13]. Upon dissolution, balance amount should be given to other society and not to any member. [section 14].