A division bench of Calcutta High Court has delivered a split verdict over the issue of whether a Registrar under The West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961 can cancel the registration of a society.
The single bench of the high court had upheld such an order of Registrar of Firms, Society and Non-trading Corporations who had cancelled the registration of the school for the reason that registration was obtained by suppressing facts.
The division bench comprising Justice IP Mukerji and Justice Amrita Sinha heard the writ appeal against the single bench order.
Justice Mukerji observed that the power conferred on the Registrar under the West Bengal Societies Registration Act is partly administrative or executive and partly judicial when it comes to registering a society. Though it was noted that the statute does not provide any power to the registrar to “cancel the registration, the judge was of the view that there is no express or implied bar in the Act forbidding the Registrar from cancelling the registration”. It was thus observed that if there is no bar in the said Act the Registrar had the power to revoke or recall the registration of a Society in the same manner and subject to the same restrictions while exercising the power to register it.
The judge also illustrated how the public would face inconvenience if the Registrar cannot cancel the registration. He said: “Look at the great inconvenience and hardship that would be caused to the Registrar and the general public. Let us take an example. It is discovered by the Registrar that the identity of the members of an association had been wrongly or fraudulently disclosed at the time of its registration. The organisation is that of terrorists. They want to quickly collect funds in the name of charity and misapply it. This does not fall into any one of the grounds of Section 25. The Registrar must have the power to take immediate steps to cancel the registration. He can do so only under Section 22 of the Bengal General Clauses Act, 1922. I can very firmly say that the power under Section 22 of the said Act was fully preserved while enacting the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961. In fact, there is no provision in the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961 empowering the Registrar to take immediate action against a society which has registered itself by practising fraud, forgery misrepresentation etc. or which has been registered by mistake. In such type of cases where immediate action is required to save the public from harm is the Registrar supposed to act only under the long drawn procedure prescribed by Sections 25 and 26 of the said Act? The answer is no.”
Justice Amrita Sinha, disagreeing with this view, observed that the legislature has not empowered the Registrar to review his own decision under the provisions of the West Bengal Societies Registration Act, 1961.
“The reason that comes to my mind is that the said Act provides the Registrar a whole lot of pre-registration activities and formalities that are to be mandatorily performed before issuing the certificate of registration, accordingly the legislature did not feel it expedient to provide the Registrar with the power to review the process of registration all over again. Approaching the court for appropriate remedy to prevent miscarriage of justice is always open to an aggrieved party,” the judge said.
It was further observed: “The next probable question that arises is that what should be the procedure or approach of the Registrar to cancel registration of a society if the same had been obtained by practicing fraud? What if a society had been registered upon suppression or misrepresentation of facts? Will the Registrar be powerless and allow the mistake to perpetuate? The plausible answer, in my opinion, relying upon the decisions mentioned herein above would be to approach the court of law to remove the illegality and set right the wrong that had been committed. Invoking and applying the provisions of the General Clauses Act in such a situation is not permissible.”