In a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the Bombay High Court, leading to the acceptance of a change report filed by appellants from the ‘Shikshan Prasarak Mandal‘ society. The ruling emphasizes the exclusion of defaulting members from election notices, even if their membership has not been terminated or ceased, under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
The Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, a charitable society registered since 1946, found itself embroiled in a legal dispute after the death of its President. The appellants, acting as the Working President, convened an extraordinary meeting for new executive committee elections due to the absence of elected office bearers. However, objections were raised, leading to a series of legal battles.
Key Issues and Analysis:
1. Convening the Election Meeting:
The Court addressed the issue of whether the Working President had the authority to convene the election meeting. Considering the absence of authorized office bearers, the Court invoked the ‘doctrine of necessity,’ asserting that the Working President acted out of necessity to prevent a prolonged hiatus in the elections. With no alternative suggested by objectors, the Court found the decision to convene the meeting justified.
2. Entitlement to Notice for Objectors:
The Court delved into Section 15 of the Societies Registration Act, highlighting that defaulting members were not entitled to vote or be counted as society members. Despite no automatic cessation clause in the bylaws, the proviso to Section 15 rendered the objectors as suspended members, disentitling them from receiving any notice. The Court concluded that the non-issuance of notices did not invalidate the election proceedings.
3. Locus Standi of Private Respondents:
Examining the right of private respondents to be heard, the Court noted the death of the objectors during the appeal process. The private respondent, who filed a petition before the District Judge, lacked locus standi, having neither objected before the Assistant Charity Commissioner nor being a valid member of the society.
The Supreme Court’s ruling provides clarity on the exclusion of defaulting members from election notices under the Societies Registration Act. Emphasizing the necessity-driven actions of the Working President and the suspension of objectors under Section 15, the Court has directed fresh elections for the new executive committee of the Shikshan Prasarak Mandal within six months. This judgment sets a precedent for societies dealing with similar disputes and underscores the importance of adherence to statutory provisions in conducting elections.