Since India Today rated Himachal as number one in health and education, the HP govt has been tomtoming about the title thrusted upon it in quarter page ads in national dailies and all. Nothing wrong with that. In fact we too at HimVani too had been tomtoming as well.
But it’s just not the government that’s played a role in achieving this distinction. NGOs, voluntary organisations and societies working in Himachal have played a major role in this. Advocacy as such is very high in Himachal. But the government feels otherwise. It feels the state has achieved too much of development now which needs to pulled back and that could be done only by throttling these NGOs, and societies and voluntary organisations.
So it comes up with a The Himachal Pradesh Societies Registration Bill-2006, which endorses Inspector Raj and gives immunity to political affliated organisations, while the Registrar can at his whims just close the society and takeover all its property. Meanwhile, the hangman can simply not be challenged in the court of law. Is it a joke or something else? Even the court verdicts can be challenged in higher courts but sorry the Registrar cannot be challenged.
The bill obviously should not acceptable to the Voluntary Organisations/Societies registered under the Societies Registration Act-1860 [Act-XXI]. also it should not be acceptable to the citizens of Himachal and even India as it makes mockery of the constitution of India, democracy and the judicial system. Let’s have a detailed view.
The Bill is against voluntarism, rule of law and fundamental rights given to the citizens of India by the Constitution. The bill is also against the directions, instructions and policies of the Union Government; hence implementation of this legislation will hamper development process through voluntary actions in Himachal Pradesh on large scale.
- That in chapter-1 section 3 is an attack on the fundamental rights of citizens to form an association/Society for any welfare or charitable purpose for any purpose valid under the law of land. The said bills restrict the registration of society/association for only twelve purposes laid in the bill. For examples if some persons want to register the society for the welfare of down trodden and deprived people of the society, Protection of Human Rights of Dalits, eradication of socio-legal evils of girl infeticides and working for the welfare of Animals and Birds etc. under the proposed Bill such societies shall not be registered.
- That under the chapter-1 section 2 (B) has changed the legal definition of family for constituting of society prevailed in the country. As per this Bill even brothers and sisters can constitute any society. This would prove to be a joke in the name of a society as every Hindu joint family could have their own society as per this provision.
- That under Chapter III section 9 (1) society can not even implement any rule or regulation made according to their registered society without the approval of Registrar of Societies which defeats the autonomous nature of a society.
- That under Chapter III section 9 (5) the registered Bye Laws of any society shall have to be changed in accordance of the provision of this new Bill, which would defeat the very purpose of thousands of societies already registered and working in H.P. under the societies Registration Act. 1860[XXI].
- That under chapter IV section 15 (1) has provision of having minimum three members governing body by a society, which means that with majority of two members society can take any decision. Where as Societies Registration Act. 1860 provides minimum number of Governing body to five.
- That under Chapter IV section (23) even for a minor mistake made by the Secretary of the society, all the members of the Society shall be punished with fine up to five hundred. This provision is totally against the rule of law.
- That under chapter V section 33 (1) gives the dictatorial powers to the Registrar Societies under which without any valid reason even on the basis of his imaginations and so called apprehensions, the Registrar by using Police Force can take possession of the Society and its property, funds and record. There by making society non-functional at his discretion.
- That under chapter VI section 35 (2 & 3) have the provision that any Society having transaction exceeding five lakhs Rupees shall have to publish its balance sheet including profit and loss statement in a prominent daily newspaper, but it is the question that where from the funds for the this purpose will come, this expenditure may vary from Twenty Thousand to Thirty Thousand approximately. Such provisions will certainly strain the NGO’s workers who are purely working volunteer for the welfare of the society and not for making profits. Further under these sections registrar after receiving audit reports of the society may summon all the records of the society for verification or may appoint any officer to do so or may order special audit of the Society will merely encourage the Inspector Raj and will breed corruption.
- That under chapter VI section 37 give powers provided in the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, enjoyed by a Magistrate to the Registrar or person authorized by him to inspect the Society. This provision would certainly be misused for the harassment of the Societies.
- That under chapter VII section 39 and its sub sections again gives dictatorial powers to the Registrar of the Societies. Under this section Registrar shall enjoy all kind of executive, investigative and judicial powers which includes interference of Registrar in all the internal matters (even petty matters) of the Societies, examining their workers on oath, issuing summon, calling general meeting of the society and forcing for the passing of any resolution directed and dictating by him and decide the matters which shall be binding on the Societies.
- That under chapter VII section 41 empowers the Registrar to remove governing body of the Societies and can appoint Administrator to manage the affairs of the Societies. Administrator’s all remunerations fixed by the Registrar shall be paid from the accounts of Societies. Under the sub section 7 of this section if any resolution passed by the general body is not acceptable the Registrar the Registrar as per the sub section 9 may expel even a member of the Society from the membership of the Society. Such provisions are against the democratic setup of the country and will completely finish the autonomy of the society and there shall be no difference between the Government department and the Society as per this bill.
- That in chapter VIII Section 45 gives again arbitrary powers to the Registrar to cancel the registration of any Society. Under societies registration Act. 1860 these powers are with the Civil Courts.
- That chapter VIII section 48 gives the powers to the District Magistrate to take over the moveable and immovable properties of the Society under the Government control of such Societies whose registration has been cancelled. The Societies has no right to appeal against actions under section 45 & 48. Such provisions are against the fundamental rights and natural justice.
- That chapter IX section 49 gives absolute powers to the Registrar of the Societies to prosecute the office bearers on petty, tiny and even fabricated matters which is a mockery with the judicial system of the country.
- That in chapter X section 51 denies the right to the Societies for judicial review of the decisions and actions taken by the Registrar of the Societies. It is against the well-established judicial system of the country.
- That under chapter XI section 53 says that the Registrar or any person authorized by him under this Bill shall enjoy absolute judicial immunity and no one can sue him in any court of law for their action under this Bill. Such powers will only increase corruption and harassment of the Societies.
- That under chapter XI section 54 (1) the provisions are against the federal structure of the country and organisations of national and international repute would not come to the State to serve the marginalized and deprived sections of the community.
- That chapter XI section 55 makes the provision to charge fees from the Societies at every level of their functioning such as even for submitting of any information, audit reports, account and submission of list or members which has been made mandatory. It seems that the law maker have drafted this document for the corporate sector and not for welfare and charitable Societies as one of the purpose of the implementation would be to make money from the pockets of social workers of the state.
- That chapter XI section 57 the act authorizes the State Government to exempt any Society from the Provisions/application of this Bill. Which means that Societies enjoying political patronage would be out of the clutches of this Bill and Societies made by common citizens and social workers will suffer.
Some of the provisions of Himachal Pradesh Societies Registration Bill 2006 are sufficient to end the Voluntary Movement in the State and prevent further growth and expansion. The national and international scenario and surveys shows that voluntary organisations have served the community better and are reaching out to the most needy people. Hence the implementation of such law referred above will hamper smooth growth of voluntary movement in the State of Himachal Pradesh.
It shall not out of place that the Planning Commission, India is in the process of finalising the NGO Policy and the policy aims at promoting volunteerism in the country. The Present Bill is against this policy in letter and in spirit.
NGOs and voluntary organisations working in the state have given a memorandum to Himachal Governor Mr VS Kokje opposing the bill. “We would like to emphasis and assure you that the voluntary organisations will welcome any legislation that facilitates and promote transparent, accountable and responsible voluntary sector. Such Legislation must be drafted by taking in to confidence all the stakeholders, leading social workers, social scientists and reports of financial laws and national policy,” the memorandum says.
“It is humbly requested that the above said bill may very kindly be returned to the State Assembly for reconsideration, as some of the provisions of Bill are unconstitutional against natural law and rule of the law as well as against the NGO Policy drafted by Planning Commission, Government of India,” the memorandum adds.
HimVani being an advocacy group, which starts with the notion of collectivism and encourages people participation in the development of the state at all levels, opposes the bill in its presnt form. However, we also feel that Himachal has the highest number of NGOs registered in India and some of them were really not there for the spirit of activism. And an amendment in the existing Act was necessary to bring in transparency and accountability in the functioning of these voluntary organisations. As said the Bill is not an amendment but a new Bill which is nothing short of being called ‘draconian”.