Damayanti v. Union of India, AIR 1971 SC 9662d

By – Naman Jain (Galgotias University)


  • In the case of Damayanti vs Union of India, the focus was on the interpretation of Article 19(1)(c) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental freedom to associate. Specifically, the case examined the constitutional validity of the Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Act, 1949. This Act mandated that members of a society must join a Sammelan (association) established under the Act, and failure to do so would result in the dissolution of the society.
  • The Supreme Court, in its ruling, held that the Act violated the basic right to association as it compelled society members to join the Sammelan against their will. The Court emphasized that any law prohibiting affiliation is unlawful, and that the right to associate includes the right not to associate. Furthermore, the Court found the provision in the Act for the dissolution of the society to be arbitrary and unreasonable. It concluded that interfering with the freedom to form associations was unjustifiable and did not align with the functioning of an association in carrying out its objectives or purposes after its formation.
  • The Court determined that the complete loss of property resulting from non-compliance with the Act could not be justified as a legitimate restriction in the public interest. The Act went beyond regulating the management of the Society’s property and instead aimed to completely deprive individuals of their right to possess the property. It was established that a law cannot be deemed a reasonable restriction under Article 19(5) if its purpose is not solely to ensure effective management and administration of the property, but also to entirely strip individuals of their property rights.  
  •  Keywords : Association, Article 19(1)(c), Constitution of India, Fundamental Rights, Article 19, Democracy
Judgement Cause TitleDamayanti v. Union of India
Judgement Date23/02/1971
AuthorJustice BHARGAVA
Citation1971 AIR 966
Legal Provisions InvolvedArticle 19 (1)(c), (f) Article 19 (4) (5) of COI (4) and (5)-Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962.


In Indian constitutional law, the case of Damyanti Naranga v. Union of India, AIR 1971 SC 966, is very important. The crux of this matter lies in the interpretation of Article 19(1)(f) of the Indian Constitution, which safeguards the liberty to form groups or unions. The petitioner in this case, Damyanti Naranga, claimed that the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962 was unconstitutional because it infringed upon her basic right to form associations. It is crucial to note, in a formal and professional manner, that this landmark decision examined the relationship between the Indian Constitution’s Article 19(1)(f) right to form associations and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962. The petitioner, Damyanti Naranga, sought to demonstrate that the Act violated her fundamental right to group organization.


  • Renowned educators founded the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in 1910 with the goal of advancing Hindi language proficiency throughout the nation. The Sammelan became a legally recognized society in January 1914 when it was registered in Allahabad under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Its bylaws and regulations outlined its goals and method. 
  • Three categories of members made up the Society: special, permanent, and ordinary members. The working committee of the Society held elections to decide which new members would be admitted into these categories. The Society established a number of organizations, including the Governing Body, Working Committee, and Hindi University Council, to support its initiatives, which include the advancement of Hindi, the promotion of the Devnagari script, holding exams, and awarding degrees.
  • The Society owned landed properties and buildings in Allahabad and other locations, along with substantial funds dedicated to fulfilling its objectives. It functioned successfully for several years. However, in 1950, disputes arose among members regarding proposed amendments to the Society’s constitution. This resulted in litigation, with three civil suits being filed in the Allahabad court and a receiver being appointed to manage the Society’s affairs.
  • To address the aforementioned issues, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Legislature enacted the UP Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1956, which transferred the management and properties of the Society to a newly established statutory body. Nevertheless, the Allahabad High Court declared the Act unconstitutional, citing a violation of the right to form associations under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. Subsequently, the central government enacted the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962 (referred to as “the Act”), which is now under challenge.


Whether the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962 interfered with the fundamental right of the Society members under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution to form associations.


The Petitioner/Appellant’s Counsel argued that the Sammelan, which was founded in accordance with the Act, permitted the admission of new members without the approval of current Society members. The members of the Society were not in Favor of this change in Association.
ii. This conduct violated the members of the Society’s fundamental freedom to choose the members of their association going forward and to associate only with people they had freely accepted.
iii. It’s critical to understand that the freedom to organize includes the authority to choose and manage the association’s future membership and operations.


i. The respondent’s counsel contended that the relevant Act did not restrict the ability to form associations; rather, it only attempted to govern the Society’s management. As per their submission, membership in the Sammelan was immediately extended to all members of the Society.

ii. An alternative argument put forth was that the Act preserved the original Society while establishing a separate Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. Thus, there was no violation of the freedom to organize associations.


  • Article 19(1)(c) of COI guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of association to every citizen, which includes the right to form associations or unions.
  • Article 19(4) of COI empowers the State to make laws imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, morality etc.
  • Sections 5-25A of SCA lay down provisions for registration of societies, their rights and liabilities, alteration of objects, dissolution etc. which were relevant for the original Society.Section 2(1) of HSS declared the Society an institution of national importance to confer legislative competence to Parliament.
  • Sections 4-12 of HSS constituted a new statutory ‘Sammelan’ body and its governing structures, vesting Society’s properties in it.
  • Section 12(1)(a) Of UPSS empowered the first governing body to frame membership rules of the Sammelan.



  1. Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution guarantees the fundamental freedom to organize associations; this right was breached by the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962, according to the ratio decidendi, the legal theory that underpinned the decision.
  2. The Sammelan, established under the Act, allowed the admission of new members without the original Society members’ approval, the Court said in its verdict. The Society members’ freedom to choose the association’s current membership and to associate only with voluntarily admitted members was violated by this change in the association’s makeup, which was imposed against their will
  3. It was confirmed that the ability to organize associations includes the power to manage and decide the organization’s future structure and operations. The mere inclusion of all Society members in the Sammelan did not negate the infringement, as the Sammelan was a distinct legal entity separate from the original Society.
  2. The following non-binding obiter dicta were included in the judgment: • The right to form associations should not be restricted to the act of founding the association alone, but should also include the right to continue the association with a predetermined membership
  3. If the Society survives, the governing body is still entitled to use the property even after the Act takes effect. It is not a fair restriction to completely deny them these rights.

The Act would potentially violate the right to property guaranteed by Article 19(1)(f) if its sole goal was to transfer the Society’s properties; alternatively, it raises questions regarding the legislative competence to do so under Entry 63 if its intended purpose was to preserve the Society while forming a separate Sammelan.


The Supreme Court allowed the writ petition and appeal, concluding that the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1962 was unconstitutional as it violated the fundamental right to form associations under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.


  • The judgment established the right to form associations as including the right to determine the continued composition and functioning of the association. This prevented state interference in the internal affairs and composition of voluntary associations.
  • By striking down attempts to replace the original registered Society with a new statutory body, it protected associational autonomy and identity of voluntary organizations from being altered by legislation.
  • The Court rejected arguments attempting to justify the Act on the grounds of merely regulating administration, by noting its actual effect and intention was to reconstitute the Society itself.
  • It took a purposive approach accounting for the substantive effect of provisions rather than just their literal meaning, to prevent circumvention of fundamental rights.
  • Obiter remarks flagged potential issues had the legislation been framed differently i.e. keeping the Society while constituting Sammelan, or merely transferring properties – hinting at limits of even declaration as institution of national importance.
  • Provided guidance that reasonable restrictions on associational rights must actually regulate rather than unreasonably interfere with or supplant the association itself.


  1. Important Cases Referred
    “O.K. Ghosh and Another v. E. X. Joseph”[1]
    “State of Madras v. V. G. Row”[2]
    “The Board of Trustees, Ayurvedic and Unani Tibia College, Delhi v. The State of Delhi & Anr.”[3]
  1. Important Statutes Referred
    “Constitution of India”[1]
    “Societies Registration Act, 1860”[2]
    “U.P. Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Act, 1956”[3]

[1] https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/15240/1/constitution_of_india.pdf

[2] https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/2262/1/AA1860-21.pdf

[3] https://supremetoday.ai/doc/judgement/01300009014

[1] O.K. Ghosh and Another v. E. X. Joseph, [1963] Suppl. 3 S.C.R. 789

[2] State of Madras v. V. G. Row, [1952] S.C. R. 597

[3] The Board of Trustees, Ayurvedic and Unani Tibia College, Delhi v. The State of Delhi & Anr. [1962] Suppl. I S.C.R. 156

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