The Societies Registration Act of 1860 was created to offer societies promoting literature, art, science, and charitable events legal status.  However, the formation of RWAs is enabled under the act by the Union Territory and State-specific amendments and guidelines.

The Societies Registration Act, imposed on May 21, 1860, establishes the rules governing the formation, registration, organization structure, functioning, and legal status of societies constituted for specifically defined purposes. Although the SRA is a central law. However, the States and Union Territories (UTs) have accepted it with modifications and amendments that are specific to their geographical conditions. 

Let’s look into the definition of society before moving forward with the rules and regulations of society’s formation. 

Society is a grouping of multiple individuals who come together cordially to plan, manage, and act toward mutual goals. 

The Societies Registration Act was initially established to enhance the legal status of societies that are formed for artistic, charitable, literary, or scientific purposes. Additionally, the act is now commonly focused on the welfare of the local population and is generally referred to as the Resident Welfare Association (RWA). 

RWA is stated in a few governmental guidelines and rules for creating societies under the said act, while the Societies Registration Act 1860 does not specify it. For instance, the Office of the Commissioner of Industries, Delhi government, published the ‘Guidelines and Procedure for Seeking Registration of a Society for Art, Culture, and Social Welfare under the Societies Registration Act, 1860’ which highlights the types of societies that can be registered under the act, including the ‘Resident Welfare Society’.

“RWAs are stated under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, and their role is to conduct the upkeep of the common areas of a certain geographical area and other associated activities for the well-being of the residents. The Apartment Owners Association (AOA) and the Co-operative Housing Society are two other similar types of societies or associations established for the benefit of the neighborhood of a specific apartment complex or area. However, these two non-governmental bodies have more power in contrast to RWA and have more influence over the dealings and behavior of their members”, says Tanvi Jain, Advocate-Lucknow Bench, Allahabad High Court. 

Legal procedure to establish a Society 

According to Section (11) (4) (E) of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA), the project’s promoter has to accelerate the establishment of a society, an association, or a cooperative society comprising the project allottees under applicable laws.

It is advisable to be aware of the State or Union Territory (UT)-specific apartment ownership acts before selecting between the non-governmental bodies (association, co-operative housing society, society). The reason for this is that the ownership act necessitates forming an association for the apartment owners and getting it registered with the relevant governmental authority. While the other cooperative society acts and society registration acts (state and UT amendments) are not needed.

Hence, checking the applicability of the Apartment Ownership Act will be the initial step in identifying the relevant law. For instance, structures with more than five or more flats or three or more floors are subject to the Tamil Nadu Apartment Ownership Act, 1994. Further, a competent government authority should be properly approved for the construction of such buildings. 

Residential property owners who are not covered under such apartment ownership legislation can choose to establish a welfare society or a cooperative housing society to take care of their daily maintenance needs and find solutions to other mutual issues. Unauthorized housing colonies and illegal construction frequently decide to form an RWA as well. 

Establishing Welfare Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860

Establishing a society under the Societies Registration Act, of 1860 requires a minimum of seven persons. In case of disputes with members or another person, society, or organization, any unregistered society may not have legal status. 

The task of registration of the society under the studied act is managed by the authority referred to as the ‘Registrar of Societies’, established by the respective state or UT government. Therefore, the documentation and the registration application should be to the requirements of such authority. 

However, the fundamentals of society’s registration remain the same despite any variations. A Memorandum of Association would have to be prepared by the establishing members and form the rule that will regulate the activities of the society. Afterward, they must file any other required documents with these and prescribe fees to the concerned Registrar of Societies. The fees could be varied across states and UTs. 

Memorandum of Association (MoA)

The memorandum of association comprises the name, title, and objectives of the society, in addition to the names, addresses, and occupations of the committee members or other body members with whom the society’s activities and affairs are being regulated. 

Note: According to the societies’ registration acts, the name of the society should be distinctive from the existing registered societies. The proposed name must not imply favoring the part of the relevant state government or the federal government, nor should it be associated with any legal authority under any law that is still in effect. Additionally, the name of the society must not be subject to the provisions of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

Certain documents that might be required for society registration include:

An affidavit indicates the originality of the society’s name. 

Copies of legal identification documents (Adhar cards and driver’s licenses) of the founders of the society. 

Proof of the ownership of the society’s proposed registered office in addition to a no-objection certificate from the officer confirming their consent to use the property. 


The Societies Registration Act 1860 regulates the foundation and functions of RWAs. Therefore, it is advised to check the state or UT-specific apartment ownership legislation and the modifications of the Societies Act before establishing an RWA under the Societies Act. 

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