Religion-based housing OK: apex court

New Delhi, India - Upholding the power of a cooperative housing society to restrict its membership to a particular class of people, the Supreme Court ruled on 20 April that the same rule could be applied in case of a sale of a flat in the society by an existing member.

"We... uphold the right of the society to insist that the property has to be dealt only in terms of the bye-laws of the society and assigned either wholly or in parts only to persons qualified to be members of the society in terms of its bye-laws," a Bench comprising Justice B N Agrawal and Justice P K Balasubramanyan said.

A Cooperative Housing Society of the Parsi community had challenged the Gujarat High Court verdict that the restriction in a bye-laws of the society to the effect that the membership would be limited only to persons belonging to the community would be an unfair restriction.

"Unless appropriate amendments are brought to various Cooperative Societies Acts incorporating a policy that no society shall be formed or if formed, membership in no society will be confined to persons of a particular persuasion, religion, belief or region.

"It could not be said that a society would be disentitled to refuse membership to a person who is not duly qualified to be one in terms of its bye-laws", the Bench, said.

Senior advocate Soli J Sorabjee, appearing for the Society had contended that under Article 19 (1)(c) of the Constitution, Parsis had a fundamental right of forming an association and there was nothing illegal in agreeing to restrict the membership in it or to exclude the general public at its discretion with a view to carry on its object smoothly.