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Societies, Trusts, Donors, Charities and other Stakeholders

The law concerning Societies, Trusts, Waqfs and other endowments in India can be placed in three broad groupings:

• Societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and various States

amendments on it after 1947;

• Those engaged in pure religious and charitable work registered under the Religious

Endowments Act, 1863; the Charitable and Religious Trusts Act, 1920; the Waqf Act, 1995 and similar other State Acts;

• Trusts and charitable institutions registered under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882; Charitable Endowments Act, 1890; the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950; and similar other State Acts.


A Society is basically an association formed by seven or more persons with some common objectives for promotion of literature, fine arts, science etc. There may or may not be some common asset to start with but, in course of time, the Society can acquire assets.

They are registered under Societies registration Act, 1860.

Many of State legislations (through post-Independence amendments) went for widespread governmental controls to deal with abuses, malfeasance and nonfeasance of Societies.

The legal measures include:

• State’s power of enquiry and investigation;

• cancellation of registration and consequent dissolution of Societies;

• supersession of the Governing Body;

• Appointment of administrator;

• Dissolution; and

• Deletion of defunct organisations.

Trusts, Religious Endowments and Waqfs

Trusts, Endowments and Waqfs are legally created as modes of property arrangement/

settlement dedicated for definite charitable and religious purposes.


Trust is a special form of organisation which emerges out of a will. The will maker exclusively transfers the ownership of a property to be used for a particular purpose. If the purpose is to benefit particular individuals, it becomes a Private Trust and if it concerns some purpose of the common public or the community at large, it is called a Public Trust.

Difference between Trust and Society • The subjects on which an institution can be registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 are practically the same as those on which a Trust could also be formed.   • The Society, prima facie, is a 28 democratic entity, as all its members (at least seven in number) have an equal say in its running whereas in a Trust, control over the property remains fully in the hands of the Trustees and depending on the clarity of the will, such a management continues to be in existence for a long time.   • Government intervenes only when Trustees change or the Trust becomes too old to be managed as per stipulations of the original will, or on grounds of malfeasance or abuse of trust.

Religious Endowments

• Religious Endowments and Waqfs are variants of Trusts which are formed for specific religious purposes e.g. for providing support functions relating to the deity, charity and religion amongst Hindus and Muslims respectively.

• Unlike Public Trusts, they may not necessarily originate from formal registration, nor do

they specifically emphasise on a triangular relationship among the donor, Trustee and the


• Religious endowments arise from dedication of property for religious purposes. The

corresponding action among the Muslim community leads to the creation of Waqfs. Waqfs

tie up the property and devote the usufruct to people.

• The Indian Constitution recognizes freedom to manage religious affairs as one of the

fundamental rights of its citizen. According to Article 26 – “Subject to public order, morality

and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:

o to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;

o to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;

o to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and

o to administer such property in accordance with law.

• Though, the above provision gives freedom to create Trusts / charitable institutions for

religious purposes, it puts some rider on administration of such property “in accordance

with law” – Article 26(d).

Waqfs in India

• Under Muslim rule in India, the concept of Waqf was more widely comprehended as

aligned with the spirit of charity endorsed by the Quran. Waqf implies the endowment of property, moveable or immovable, tangible or intangible to God by a Muslim, under the premise that the transfer will benefit the needy. As it implies a surrender of properties to God, a Waqf deed is irrevocable and perpetual

Trade Unions

• In terms of Section 2 of the Trade Unions Act, 1926, a “Trade Union means a combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more Trade Unions.”

• The objective of the Trade Unions Act is to provide a legal existence and protection to the Trade Unions as defined above.

• Importantly, it is also provided that no member of the Council of Ministers or a person

holding an office of profit (not being an engagement or employment in an establishment or industry with which the Trade Union is connected), in the Union or a State, shall be a

member of the executive or other office bearer of a registered Trade Union.

February 2024