Societies Registration Act 1860

Societies Registration Act 1860

The SRA or Societies Registration Act 1860 was created to provide legal status to societies that encourage art, science, charity events and literature. This act includes the Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) which works for the interest of those who live in a society or community. While RWAs are something we’ve all heard of and read about, the Societies Registration Act is not something that many of us are familiar with. In this article, we’re going to shed some light on this topic and learn all about its legal requirements.

What is the Societies Registration Act?

SRA was passed on 21st May 1860 to set down rules regarding the establishment, registration, functioning, structuring and legal standing of societies. It is a central law but the Union Territories and States adhere to it and follow certain amendments to fit their respective requirements. 

In simple words, Societies Registration Act is Indian legislation that enables the registration of entities that contribute towards society’s benefit. These entities can belong to any sector like health, education, employment and more. 

Importance and Benefits of Societies Registration Act 1860

A registered society is regarded as a separate legal entity. They get access to specific authorities and benefits mentioned below:

  • Fewer or no legal hassles when purchasing a property. 
  • Right to enforce proceedings in case of disputes or identification of defaults. 
  • Authority to avail income tax return 
  • Bear lesser liabilities
  • Transfer property to other entities without submitting lengthy documents or adhering to strict compliances.
  • Property protection against adversaries seeking its ownership.
  • Right to gather funds from external sources. 
  • Invest in or purchase property in its name and avoid dealing with provisions related to ownership transfers. 

Non-registered societies are not regarded as separate legal entities. Therefore, they don’t enjoy the benefits given above. These societies do not get legal status until registration. It is thus recommended that societies get themselves registered under the SRA.

Sections under the Societies Registration Act, 1860

The Societies Registration Act comprises the following sections. We’ve listed each section along with a short description to help you understand them in more detail. 

Section 1: Societies Established by Registration and MoA

Any 7 or more people belonging to a literary, charitable, scientific purpose or other related purpose come under this Act. They have to subscribe to and prepare a Memorandum of Association (MoA). Once prepared, they have to file the MoA with the Registrar of Joint-stock Companies to successfully establish a society. 

Section 2: Memorandum of Association (MoA)

This MoA comprises the name, title and objectives of the society with other details like name, occupations and addresses of the members, directors and other parties. Together they have to abide by the rules of society and manage social affairs.

A copy of the society’s rules and regulations, signed as a certified copy by at least 3 members of the governing body, shall be filed with the MoA. 

Section 3: Registration and Fees

After filing the MoA and certified copy, the Registrar certifies the society as registered under this act. A registration fee of ₹50 or less is paid to the Registrar. The fees vary from state to state and union territory to union territory 

Section 4: File an Annual List of Management/Managing Bodies

A society meeting takes place at least once a year. Generally, a specific day of the meeting is listed in the rules of the society. However, if for some reason a day or date is not mentioned, the meeting takes place in January. 

Section 5: Society’s Property (How is it Vested?)

Any movable or immovable property that belongs to a registered society under this act, if not yet in control of trustees shall be considered as vested in the governing body of the society. In all the proceedings, criminal or civil, this property shall be described as property controlled by the governing body of the society. 

Section 6: Lawsuits Filed by or against Societies

All the registered societies under this act have the authority to sue or be sued in the name of the Chairman, President, trustees or Principal Secretary according to the society’s rules and regulations. 

Section 7: Suits not to Subside

No suit in any civil court will subside or terminate because of the individual, by or against whom such suit or procedures will have been brought or kept, dying or stopping to furnish the character in the name whereof he will have sued or been sued, the same proceeding sustaining will be proceeded for the sake of or against the replacement or such individual.

Section 8: Judgement Enforced against Society

In case a judgement is retrieved against the officer or person named on the society’s behalf, it will not be passed against the property or the body of such officer or person but the society’s property.  

Section 9. Recovery of Penalty Accruing under Bye-law

Every society sets out rules and regulations related to the creation of bye-laws. However, if no such rules are established before, then the members of the society can create a bylaw at a general meeting. It requires 3/5th of the society’s members to be present and simultaneously agree to the creation of the bye-law. Breach of any bye-law shall result in a penalty. This penalty may be recovered in any court either at the defendant’s location or the society’s location wherever the governing body finds it convenient.

Section 10: Members Can be Sued

Any member of the society who might be in arrear of a subscription which as per the society’s rules he is liable for, or who will have himself of or confine any property of the society or for a period in opposition to such rules, or will harm or obliterate any property of the society, might be sued for such arrear. 

Section 11: Members guilty of offences punishable as strangers.

Any society member who will take, purloin, or steal any cash or other property, intentionally and malignantly obliterate or harm any property of the society or indulge in activities that might lead to loss will be subject to prosecution. If proven guilty, the member will be punished in the same regard as that of a non-member. 

Section 12: Societies that Wish to Change or Modify Their Purposes

If the governing body of any of the societies registered under this act advises any changes, extensions or amalgamation; the governing body shall send a proposal of it to the society members in a printed or written notice. They might as well call a special meeting as per the rules of the society to propose such changes. 

The notice of the meeting shall be sent to all the society members at least 10 days prior to the meeting. The proposal will only be accepted or passed if 3/5th of the members agree to it via votes. 

Section 13. Provision for Dissolution of Societies and Adjustment of Their Affairs

If at any given point of time, the members (not less than 3/5th of the total number) of the society decide to dissolve the society, essential steps as per the rules and regulations set by the society shall be taken for it. The liabilities and claims associated with the society will thus be dealt with by the governing body, according to the society’s rules. And, in case of any disputes between the members and governing body, settlement of such affairs will take place in the court.  


  • The decision of society dissolution will only be valid if 3/5th of its members express a similar wish via votes (person to person or through a proxy) at a meeting.
  • Any society that is registered under this act cannot be dissolved without Government consent. 

Section 14: Upon a Dissolution, No Member to Receive Profit

Upon a society dissolution, any property or profit of the society shall not be distributed among the members. It shall be transferred to another society which will be elected by the members of society (dissolved) itself. The voting will require the presence and agreement of at least 3/5th members of the society wherein the members can vote in person or via proxy. 

Section 15: Defined Members

The Societies Registration Act states that only those individuals are considered as members of the society that have been admitted as per the rules and regulations of the society. They should pay for the membership or sign a members list and should have resigned from their role as a member of society. 

Members who have pending subscriptions that exceed 3 months or more shall be considered disqualified members. These members lose their right to vote or be named as members of society. 

Section 16: Governing Body Defined

The governing bodies defined under the Societies Registration Act involve council, committee, governors, trustees, directors or any other body to whom the society as per rules and regulations trusts for management of its affairs.  

Section 17: Registration of Societies Formed before Act

If there is a society and company that works for charitable, literary or scientific purposes that aren’t registered under Act 43 of 1850 or are formed before the establishment Act 43 of 1850, it holds the right to register for it any time. 

The registration is possible only if 3/5th of the society members agree to it or simultaneously vote for it personally or via proxy at a meeting. 

Companies registered under this Act will have their directors working as the governing body. Non-registered societies that do not have any bodies established will require making a governing body on its own upon due notice. 

To complete registration under this Act, the society’s governing body must file an MoA with the Registrar of Joint-stock companies. The MoA as previously mentioned will contain details like the society’s name, objectives, member list, address and professions of the members. Along with an MoA, the governing body will also require submitting a copy of the society’s rules and regulations as well as the copy of the report containing details of events that took place during the general meeting.

Section 19: Document Inspection

Any individual can examine documents filed with the Registrar under the Societies Registration Act by paying a fee of ₹1 for each document inspection. If any individual requires a copy of the documents or a specific part of the document, they can pay two annas for every 100 words for the copy or part of the document. These certified copies will be considered prima facie evidence in all legal proceedings upon submission. 

Section 20: Types of Societies that This Act Applies to

The Societies Registration Act 1850 applies to charitable societies, military orphan funds, societies that promote literature, science, fine arts; societies set up at Indian presidencies. It also applies to public museums, galleries, paintings and all kinds of works of arts, philosophical and mechanical inventions, designs or instruments. 

Vipra Chadha Vipra is a full-time content writer and a part-time Netflix addict. She enjoys exploring new topics and researches every piece before nailing it on the top searches of Google. She’s passionate about learning, believes in laughing her heart out and taking life one day at a time.
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