This article is written by Anubhav Pandey who talks in detail about how Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) work, especially in Delhi & several other cities.
In this chapter, you will learn about-
- Applicable statutes and registration requirements for Resident Welfare Associations;
- Governance structure of Resident Welfare Associations;
- Powers and functions of Resident Welfare Associations;
- Powers of Resident Welfare Associations vis-a-vis those of co-operative housing societies.
Resident Welfare Associations – Overview
In Delhi and several other cities in India, you will see that residential colonies are having a Resident Welfare Association for each colony and each block. For example, if you are staying at G-Block Saket, it will be having an independent G-Block Resident Welfare Association (RWA). How do these associations work? What are their powers? Are they legally registered?
Powers & Functions of a Resident Welfare Association
- Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) are typically registered under the Societies Registration Act,1860 (in every state the Act may have state-level amendments). They are governed by constitutional documents such as a Memorandum of Association (yes, societies can have a memorandum of association as well), which contains their objectives and functions.
- They are voluntary associations made by residents and they don’t have any statutory powers. For example, a Resident Welfare Association cannot really impact your right to hold or exercise rights over the property you own and will have its powers restricted to the contribution of sums for maintenance, the organization of workshops and cultural functions etc.
- As societies, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) also pass their own rules and regulations to define their powers, functions, governance structure, names of dignitaries etc. We will discussed this in greater detail later on.
- Since it is a society, RWA is a legal person and can sue and be sued as well. Taking care of society’s by-laws, addressing any disputes over management of the colony or maintenance of common areas, etc. is the work of an RWA.
How Many People are Required to Form a Resident Welfare Association
Seven or more persons can subscribe their names to a Memorandum of Association and can file it with the Registrar of Societies to form themselves into a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
Are there any Guidelines Issued by the Government to RWAs? Are they Binding?
The government has framed specimen MOA rules and regulations for Resident Welfare Associations (as attached). The government may also issue guidelines to these RWAs as it is seen in Bhagidari Scheme in Delhi, which was to promote broad-based civic participation in local governance.
Has the Court Said Something about Resident Welfare Associations?
The Society may sue or be sued in the name of the President/General Secretary as per the provision laid down under Section 6 of the Societies Registration Act, 1860, as applicable to the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Courts have often taken cognizance on the working of the RWAs.
- The apex court advised the active participation of RWAs for water harvesting projects in Delhi society.
- It even advised the society member falling within that particular RWA to collect INR 1000 for the same purpose.
- In yet another case, the Emerald Court Owner-Resident Welfare took the stand against the demolition of the tower, which was erected against the minimum distance requirement between two building blocks. RWA took the matter to the apex court, the petition though was disposed off but, the RWA performed its function, i.e. protection of the interest of society members.
Comparison of Powers of Resident Welfare Associations and Co-operative Housing Societies in Multi-Storey Buildings
In contrast to the power of co-operative housing societies, the powers of Resident Welfare Associations are very limited. There are no statutory powers as they are voluntary organizations created to manage residents’ interest. Co-operative housing societies have various powers such as:
- The power to give permission or refuse for transfer of a multi-storey flat by a member.
- The power to expel a member for non-payment of the society’s dues (which can have implications on the ability to enjoy the facilities and ownership connected with the flat).
- Annex 1 at the end of this chapter gives a list of their typical functions.
- A sample MOA and rules and regulations are attached separately.
- For added clarity, the governance structure of RWAs is explained below.
Governance of Resident Welfare Associations
(With excerpts from Specimen Rules)
While you may refer to the specimen MOA and rules and regulations, a brief explanation of the governance structure of Resident Welfare Associations is being provided here.
Membership of RWA – The membership of the society is open to any person who has attained the age of majority and has interest in the development of the society and abides by terms and conditions of the society without any discrimination of the religion, caste, creed or colors but subject to the approval of the governing body. This includes tenants too.
A person is not a member just by the virtue of him residing in a particular locality. Proper registration is required in a prescribed form.
Refusal of Membership – The governing body of the society might refuse any person for the membership provided. Reasons for refusal is to be communicated to the person concerned in writing with reason.
Termination of Membership – Any member might get terminated on grounds such as –
- A member of the society working against the aims and objects of the society.
- If the member fails to attend three successive meetings of the general body without intimation in writing.
On rejection, there lies an appeal to the general body of the society; the decision of the general body is final. The reason of rejection is to be communicated to the concerned member.
Rights and Privileges of Members – Every member has a right to participate in the membership general body meeting. Besides this, he/she also has the right to vote at the meeting of the society. Every member is entitled to participate in the meetings, functions and get-together programs of the society.
Quorum and Notice of Meeting – A general body of the society consisting of all the members is to be constituted.
- The meeting of the general body will be held once every year with 2/3rd attendance.
- An emergent meeting of the general body may also be summoned on the written request of 3/4th members with prior notice of reasonable time.
- The passing of budget, auditing of accounts, maintenance of locality etc is to be discussed in such meeting.
Governing Body – Resident Welfare Association should have a governing body of the society to look after and to manage the day to day affairs of the society.
- It should consist of the members depending upon the locality under the jurisdiction of that particular RWA.
- The meetings of the governing body are to be conducted within a period of time which the society thinks fit and the quorum of the meeting should be 2/3rd.
- The accounts of the society will be audited by the qualified auditor every year to be appointed by the governing body.
- The governing body of the society will be elected for a fixed term decided by every RWA individually.
- The raising hands will be the mode of election. The newly elected governing body’s list should be attested by the three out going office bearers and it will be filed with the registrar of the societies, Delhi.
The following should be the present structure/strength of the governing body –
- President: One
- Vice-President: One
- General Secretary: One
- Secretary: One
- Treasurer: One
- Finance Advisor: One
- Executive Members
Power and Duties of Office Bearers
- President – He/She is to preside in all the meetings of the general body and the governing body. In the case of equality of votes in any meetings, he/she is to vote on a draw. He/She supervises the work of other office bearers from time to time.
- Vice-president – In the absence of the President, the Vice-President enjoys all powers and duties which are entrusted to the President. He/She will also assist the President in his/her duties from time to time.
- General Secretary – He/She will represent the society in public and private offices. He/She is entitled to keep all types of records of the society including the registration of members containing their names, addresses and other brief particulars.
- Secretary – In the absence of the General Secretary, the Secretary enjoys all powers and duties which are entrusted to the General Secretary. He/She will also assist the General Secretary in his/her duties from time to time.
- Treasurer – He/She collects subscription, gifts, grants-in-aid and donations from the members and the general public and is to be made responsible for keeping and maintaining the true and correct accounts of the society’s fund.
The financial year of every RWA begins from 1st April and extends up to 31st March every year. The funds of the Society is to be kept in a scheduled bank. The bank account of the society will be operated by the Treasurer or/and by any one of the President or General Secretary.
- Executive Members – They will assist in the day to day work of the society as directed by the President and General Secretary.
Filing of list of office bearers with the Registrar of Societies, Delhi
Once in the month of April every year, a list of the office-bearers and members of the governing body of the society is to be filed with the Registrar of Societies, Delhi, as required under section 4 of the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
List of Typical Functions of a Resident Welfare Association
- To take up the matter with the competent authorities for the common interest of the residents for providing or improving common facilities in the area like – park, drainage, roads, streetlights, scavenging, water and electricity supplies, banking, post office, bus services facilities, community hall, milk booth, health center, rationing shop, mini-super bazaar, shopping facilities etc.
- To arrange and organize social and cultural functions from time to time.
- To make adequate arrangements for poor, widows and handicapped orphans, old aged and mentally retired persons.
- To create shelters or provide support for the education of underprivileged or economically weaker sections of the community.
- To approach the concerned authorities for redressal of grievances of the members of the society.
- To make correspondence in a lawful manner to arrange meetings, conferences with the concerned authorities.
- To share information about the Government Rules, policies, notifications amongst the members of the association.
- To arrange services like sanitary fittings, plumbing work, electrical work, security and sweeping etc. for the area.
- To receive and collect any gift or donations acquired by any lawful ways and use it for the fulfillment of all or any other objects of the society. If any person wants to contribute, the contribution should be spent towards the promotion of the society’s objective only.
Suggestive read: Misuse of Public Interest Litigation
Resident Welfare Associations have played a major role in improving Delhi in the past decade and I hope they keep up with the pace in the forthcoming decades too.
What do you think about the working of Resident Welfare Associations in your locality or nearby? Comment Below. And don’t forget to Share.
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References- Sureshwar D. Sinha v. Union of India, (2000) 8 SCC 368
 Emerald Court Owner Resident Welfare Assn. v. State of U.P., 2014 SCC OnLine All 14817 : (2014) 104 ALR 527