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Society Registration

A society is an association of persons united together by mutual consent to deliberate, determine and act jointly for some common purpose. Societies are usually registered for promotion of charitable activities like education, art, religion, culture, music, sports, etc., In India, The Societies Registration Act, 1860 lays down the procedure for society registration and operation in India. In this article, we look at the process for society registration in India:

A society is an organized group of persons whose main objective is to serve society and not to earn a profit. A society is registered under The Societies Registration Act, 1860 to become a legal entity. A society exists for the purpose of charitable activities such as poverty relief, arts, education, religion, cultures and sports. The Governing body members are entrusted with the management of the affairs of the society. Whereas, the General Body member’s duties include the election of governing body members, alteration of rules and regulations, name and objects,if necessary. A foreigner can also become a society member in India.

A Society can be formed by a minimum of seven or more persons. Besides persons from India, foreigners, companies and other registered societies can subscribe to the Memorandum of a society. Like Partnership Firms, Societies can also be registered or unregistered. However, only registered Societies can hold vested properties and/or have a suit filed by or against the Society.

Society registration is managed by State Governments. Therefore, the application for registration of society must be made to the concerned authority in the State, in which the registered office of the Society will be situated.

To register a Society, the founding members must first agree on a name for the Society and prepare the Memorandum and Rules and Regulations of the Society.

Societies are membership organizations that may be registered for charitable purposes. Societies are usually managed by a governing council or a managing committee.

Societies have been envisaged as welfare and charitable associations of people having a broad based membership and comparatively more democratic and transparent set up as compared to such set ups as public charitable trusts.

Societies are governed by the Societies Registration Act 1860, which has been adapted by various states. Unlike trusts, societies may be dissolved.

Register a Society either at National level or State level in India. In India there are different Society Registration Acts - Tamilnadu Societies Registration Act 1975, Andhra Pradesh Societies Registration Act 2001, West Bengal Societies Registration Act 1961, Rajasthan Societies Registration Act 1958. But Society Registration Act 1860 is applicable across India for Non – Profitable Organizations. Society Registration Certificate is issued by charity commission, Registrar of Societies along with registered copy of Memorandum of Association (MOA) / Bylaws of Society. Registration of Society can be done for different purposes or Aims and Objectives like – Religious Society, Educational Society, Housing Society, Resident Welfare Society, Institute / School registration, Public Charitable Society, Women Welfare Society, Child Welfare Society, Orphanage Society, Old Age Home society, to save Nature, Environment and Art and Culture, Multipurpose society. A Society can work with single objective or it can serve to different sections of society with different aims and objectives.

Societies Act, 1860

The Societies Registration Act, 1860 was introduced with the aim of improving the legal conditions of societies registration for promotion of literature, science or fine arts or for diffusion of useful knowledge for charitable purposes. The Societies Registration Act, 1860 has been adopted by most of the State Governments with/without further amendments.

Society Registration – Purposes

A Society can be formed for the promotion of literature, science or fine arts or the diffusion of useful knowledge or political education or for charitable purposes. As per Section 20 of the Societies Act, 1860, a Society can be registered for the following purposes:

Grant of charitable assistance.
Creation of Military Orphan funds.
Promotion of Science.
Promotion of Literature.
Promotion of Fine Arts.
Promotion or Instruction or Diffusion of useful Knowledge.
Diffusion of Political Education.
Foundation or maintenance of libraries or reading rooms.
Foundation or maintenance of Public Museum or Galleries.
In addition to the above purposes specified by the Societies Act, 1860, a Society can also be registered for other purposes based on the amendment that has been enacted to the Societies Act, 1860 by the concerned State Government

Society Registration – Name Selection

While choosing a name for the society, it is important to remember that as per Societies Act, 1860, similar or identical name of an existing registered society is not permitted. Further the proposed name for the society must also not suggest patronage of the Government of India or any State Government or attract the provisions of Emblem and Names Act, 1950.

Memorandum of a Society

The Memorandum of the Society and the Rules and Regulations of the Society must then be signed by each of the founding members, witnessed by an Oath Commissioner, Notary Public, Gazetted Officer, Advocate, Chartered Accountant or Magistrate 1st Class with their official stamp and complete address. The following documents must be prepared, signed and submitted for Society Registration:

Covering letter requesting registration of the Society, signed by all founding members.
Memorandum of Association of the Society in duplicate along with a certified copy.
Rules and Regulations of the Society in duplicate along with a duplicate, duly signed by the founding members.
Affidavit sworn by the President or Secretary of the Society stating relationship between the subscribers.
Address proof for the registered office of the Society and No-Objection Certificate from the Landlord.
The signed Memorandum and Rules and Regulations must then be filed with the concerned Registrar of Societies in the State with the prescribed fee. If the Registrar is satisfied with application for Society Registration, the Registrar would certify to deem the Society to be registered.

Formation of NGO as Society

According to the provisions of Societies Registration Act, 1860, minimum seven or more adult persons can form a Society. For a national level Society eight persons from seven different states would be required as promoters.

a) Covering letter signed by the authorized person.
b) Memorandum of Association, in duplicate.
c) Rules and Regulations/Bye-laws, in duplicate.
d) An affidavit of the President/Secretary on a non-judicial stamp paper of prescribed value, stating the relationship between the subscribers/ promoters, duly attested by an Oath Commissioner/Notary Public or First Class Magistrate.
e) Proof of registered office, rent receipt or no objection from the landlord.
f) Authority duty signed by all members of the managing committees.
g) Declaration by the members of the managing committee that the funds of the society shall be used only for the purpose of furthering the aims and objectives of the society.


Can Societies be formed for profits?
No, societies are formed to serve society and not to earn profits.

Where can i register a society?
Registrar of societies i.e., District Registrar of a District is appointed and has the power to register the societies. Societies can be registered with the registrar of the District in which the society is intended to be established.

What is the maximum number of people to form a society?
A minimum number of 7 persons who are above 18 years of age can form a society or an association. There is no such limit for maximum number of persons

For what reasons a society is formed?
Association can be formed for the following reasons: Arts, literature, educaticational, cultural, charity, and religious Fine Arts, crafts Knowledge of commerce and industry Promotion of scientific temper in the society Political education and training Sports (excluding games of chance) Diffusion of any knowledge or any public purpose, Maintaining Library Collection/preservation of historical monuments, technical and philosophical research.

What is the difference between Trust and society registration?

District Registrar and Registrar of Societies is the competent authority to register. Trust deed can be registered in Office of the Sub Registrar
Aims and objectives are for the development/welfare of the entire society without restriction There are two kinds of Trusts Public and Private. The latter is a private trust for the beneficiaries.
At least 7 persons are required to form a Society.; Anyone can form Trust without restriction of a number of persons.
The official board manages, subject to the approval of the general body Official board of trustees runs it. Managing trustee runs it.
Accounts should be recorded to the Registrar of Societies. Management is under the control of the management of Trustees and Managing Trustees.
There is provision to add members. Does not have any significant bearing.
In order to cancel an association, action can be taken only after an enquiry. The Author of Trust can cancel Trust. If the provision is made in the deed.
Profit can be used only for the development of society. It cannot be distributed among the members Trustees cannot share. Beneficiaries might be permitted to utilize the benefit.

What guidelines should be kept in mind while deciding a name for the society?
The name should not be Similar to one effectively existing in the District. Name denied or registered by State or Central Government through official guidelines or through Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950. Indian Institute or University.

What are the follow -up action after the society is registered?
The society should present a list to the Registrar of societies within fifteen days from the date of the General Body meeting every year. The list should contain the names and address of each member of the Managing Committee (Executive Committee) and officers entrusted with the administration of the society. Executive Committee should meet at least once in three months, and General Body shall meet at least once in a year. Amendments, if any, made should be recorded with the Registrar. Minutes of all the meetings should be recorded with the Registrar of Societies. Society should choose Executive Committee members as per its by-law

Can memorandum, by the low of society, be revised?
Memorandum can be revised by endorsement in a unique General Body Meeting called for the purpose after giving due notification and by approval another special General Body Meeting called after 30 days again. Bylaws can be altered by approval of a majority of members in Special General Body Meeting. Such corrected by-laws shall be filed with the Registrar within one month.

Can anyone other than a member of society review records of society and duplicate it?
Yes, since records of the Society are regarded as public records. Under section 24, any person can get a duplicate copy of it and create a proof.

What are the books of accounts to be maintained by a society?
Ans. - Generally the following books of account to be maintained by the society on Single Entry/Double Entry basis are:
1. Cash Book/Bank Book giving the daily receipts
2. Voucher files
3. Ledgers
4. Receipt books

Should a society get the books of accounts audited by a society?
Ans. - There are various provisions under the specific State Societies Registration Act(s) wherein provisions for Audit and filing of annual returns are specified. In general these Acts specify the check and audit of the accounts to be done by a duly qualified Chartered accountant within the meaning of the Chartered Accountants Act 1949 or a person approved by the Registrar of Societies in this behalf.

In which form should a society maintain its books of accounts?
Ans. - Section 145 of the Income tax Act provides that either cash or mercantile system of Accounting should be followed. However it has been held in various court cases that Section 14 i.e income of charitable organizations need not be computed under various heads of income, therefore there is no clarity whether a charitable organization also come under the purview of Section 145 or not. Therefore in absence of any clarifications, a charitable organization can maintain books of accounts from the following three methods of accounting :
1. Cash Basis of Accounting
2. Accrual Basis of accounting
3. Hybrid/Mixed basis of Accounting

What are the specific rules for Accounting and Audit of Foreign Contribution received by a registered society under the FC(R) A?
Ans. - For organizations which are receiving the grants or funds from international agencies, it is also important to follow the rules and the guidelines of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. Under the FC(R) A, Section 13 states that:
1. an account of any foreign contribution received by it, and
2. a record as to the manner in which such contribution has been utilized by it.
Rule 8 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation (FCR) Rules 1976 states that:
A separate set of accounts and records shall be maintained, exclusively for foreign contribution received and utilized-
(a) In Form FC-6, where the foreign contribution relates only to articles as referred to in item (1) of sub-clause (c) of clause (1) of section 2;
(b) In the cash book and ledger account on double entry basis, where the foreign contribution relates to currency received and utilized, and a separate bank account shall be maintained in respect of such contribution;
(c) In Form FC-7, where the foreign contribution relates to foreign securities.
Every account specified in sub-rule (1) shall be maintained on yearly basis, commencing on the 1st day of April each year and every such yearly account, duly certified by a chartered accountant in Form FC-3 along with a balance sheet and statement of receipt and payment shall be furnished in duplicate, to the Secretary to the Government of India, in the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, within four months of the closure of the year.

What do you means by 'Forthwith' Under Section 13 for dissolution of a society under the Societies registration Act 1860?
Ans. - 'Forthwith' according to the dictionary means, 'immediately, at once, without delay or interval'. In Bidya Deb Burma Vs District Magistrate Tripura, Agartala AIR 1969, the court interpreted from the case of Keshav Nilakanth Joglekar Vs Commissioner of Police Greater Bombay, (the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court) that "When a Statute requires that something shall be done 'forthwith' or 'immediately' or even 'instantly', it should probably be understood as allowing a reasonable time for doing it".
Therefore 'Forthwith' does not mean a precise time but should be within a reasonable time without avoidable and unreasonable delay.

What do you means by 'Principal Court of Original Civil Jurisdiction' Under Section 13 for dissolution of a society under the Societies Registration Act 1860?
Ans. - Principal Court of Original Civil Jurisdiction under Section 13 of the Act means the Principal Court of Civil Jurisdiction of the District where the Registered Office of the society is situated. In case of any dispute relating to adjustment of affairs of a society in case of dissolution, the matter has to be referred to the Principal Court of Civil Jurisdiction of the District where the Registered Office of the society is situated.

How can a society be dissolved?
Ans. - A Society can be dissolved by:
1. Its members,
2. The Registrar,
3. The Court or
4. By the Government.

Under what circumstances can a registrar dissolve a society?
Ans. - The registrar of societies (as per the respective state acts) can dissolve a society. These circumstances may be:
According to the memorandum of association governing the society:
1. Society's object clause has not been fulfilled
2. Office of the society has ceased to be in state of registration
3. Members of the society are below the required number of seven
4. Society has ceased to function for a particular period of time .
5. Society has been declared insolvent(not able to pay its liabilities)
6. Society's activities are against the Governmental or the state policy
7. Society has become insolvent
8. Society has contravened any law or the provisions of the Societies Registration Act 1860

When can a court dissolve a society?
Ans. - Section 25 of West Bengal Act gives the provisions for dissolution by Court where the court may on an application of the registrar or on the application of not less than one tenth of the members, make an order for the dissolution of a society in the following cases:
1. If there is a contravention of the provisions of the Societies Act by the society.
2. If the number of members are below seven.
3. If the society has ceased to function for more than three years.
4. Society is unable to pay its debts or meet its liabilities.
5. If it is proper that the society should be dissolved.

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