ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION
NATURE OF ARTICLES
According to Section 2(5) of the Companies Act, 2013, ‘articles’ means the articles of association of a company as originally framed or as altered from time to time or applied in pursuance of any previous company law or of this Act. It also includes the regulations contained in Table A in Schedule I of the Act, in so far as they apply to the company.
In terms of section 5(1), the articles of a company shall contain the regulations for management of the company. The articles of association of a company are its bye-laws or rules and regulations that govern the management of its internal affairs and the conduct of its business. The articles play a very important role in the affairs of a company. It deals with the rights of the members of the company inter se. They are subordinate to and are controlled by the memorandum of association. The general functions of the articles have been aptly summed up by Lord Cairns, L.C. in Ashbury Railway Carriage and Iron Co. Ltd. v. Riche, (1875) L.R. 7 H.L. 653 as follows:
“The articles play a part that is subsidiary to the memorandum of association. They accept the memorandum of association as the charter of incorporation of the company, and so accepting it, the articles proceed to define the duties, rights and powers of the governing body as between themselves and the company at large, and the mode and form in which business of the company is to be carried on, and the mode and form in which changes in the internal regulations of the company may from time to time be made… The memorandum, is as it were… the area beyond which the action of the company cannot go; inside that area shareholders may make such regulations for the governance of the company as they think fit”.
Thus, the memorandum lays down the scope and powers of the company, and the articles govern the ways in which the objects of the company are to be carried out and can be framed and altered by the members. But they must keep within the limits marked out by the memorandum and the Companies Act.
The articles regulate the internal management of the affairs of the company by way of defining the powers of its officers and establishing a contract between the company and the members and between the members inter se. This contract governs the ordinary rights and obligations incidental to membership in the company [Naresh Chandra Sanyal v. The Calcutta Stock Exchange Association Ltd., AIR 1971 SC 422, (1971) 41 Com Cases 51]. But the Articles of Association of a company are not ‘law’ and do not have the force of law. In Kinetic Engineering Ltd. v. Sadhana Gadia, (1992) 74 Com Cases 82 : (1992) 1 Comp LJ 62 (CLB), the CLB held that if any provision of the articles or the memorandum is contrary to any provisions of any law, it will be invalid in toto.
Articles Subordinate to Memorandum
The articles of a company are subordinate to and subject to the memorandum of association and any clause in the Articles going beyond the memorandum will be ultra vires. But the articles are only internal regulations, over which the members of the company have full control and may alter them according to what they think fit.
Only care has to be taken to see that regulations provided for in the articles do not exceed the powers of the company as laid down by its memorandum [Ashbury v. Watson, (1885) 30 Ch. D 376 (CA)]. Articles that go beyond the company’s sphere of action are inoperative, and anything done under the authority of such article is void and incapable of ratification.
But neither the articles nor the memorandum can authorise the company to do anything so as to contravene any of the provisions of the Act. [See Re Peveril Gold Mines, (1989) 1 Ch 122 (CA)].
Articles in relation to Memorandum
The functions of the Articles in relation to the Memorandum have already been summed up in the Ashbury Railway Carriage case and even though the articles are subordinate to the memorandum yet if there be any ambiguity in the memorandum, the articles may be used to explain it but not so as to extend the objects. [Re. South Durham Brewery Company (1885) 3 Ch. D 261]. The memorandum of a company was not clear as to the classes of shares to be issued by a company but the articles made clear the doubt by giving the power to the company to issue shares of different classes.
The relationship between the two documents was further emphasised in Guinness v. Land Corporation of Ireland, (1882) 22 Ch D 349, where it was observed: “The memorandum contains the fundamental condition upon which alone the company is allowed to be incorporated. They are conditions introduced for the benefit of the creditors, and the outside public, as well as of the shareholders. The articles of association are the internal regulations of the company. How can it be said that in all cases the fundamental conditions of the charter of incorporation and the internal regulations of the company are to be construed together… In any case it is, as it seems to me, certain that for anything which the Act of Parliament says shall be in the memorandum you must look at the memorandum alone. If the legislature has said one instrument is to be dominant you cannot turn to another instrument and read it in order to modify the provisions of the dominant instrument”. Where the memorandum clearly establishes the rights of shareholders, a reference in the memorandum to the articles and an ambiguity said to arise from the construction of the articles should not be used to depart from the clear meaning of the memorandum so as to diminish those rights [Scottish National Trust Co. Ltd. 1928 SC 499 (Scot); Kinetic Engineering Ltd. v. Sadhana Gadia, (1992) 1 Comp LJ 62 (CLB)].
REGISTRATION OF ARTICLES
Section 7(1) provides that at the time of incorporation of a company there shall be filed with the Registrar within whose jurisdiction the registered office of a company is proposed to be situated, the memorandum and articles of the company duly signed by all the subscribers to the memorandum in the prescribed manner.
Every type of company whether public or private and whether limited by shares or limited by guarantee having a share capital or not having a share capital or an unlimited liability company must register their articles of association.
Section 5(2) provides that the articles shall also contain such matters, as may be prescribed. However, nothing prescribed in this sub-section shall be deemed to prevent a company from including such additional matters in its articles as may be considered necessary for its management.
The articles of a company shall be in respective forms specified in Tables, F, G, H, I and J in Schedule I as may be applicable to such company. [Section 5(6)]
A company may adopt all or any of the regulations contained in the model articles applicable to such company. [Section 5(7)]
Section 5(8) provides that in case of any company, which is registered after the commencement of Companies Act 2013, in so far as the registered articles of such company do not exclude or modify the regulations contained in the model articles applicable to such company, those regulations shall, so far as applicable, be the regulations of that company in the same manner and to the extent as if they were contained in the duly registered articles of the company.
Therefore in terms of Section 5 of the Companies Act, 2013 a public company limited by shares may at its option register its articles of association signed by the same subscribers as to the memorandum, or alternatively it may adopt all or any of the regulations contained in Table F of First Schedule of the Act. If articles are not registered, automatically Table F in Schedule I apply, and if registered, Table F in Schedule I apply except in so far as it is excluded or modified by the articles. To avoid any confusion, normally every public company delivers its articles alongwith the memorandum for registration. Further it will be specifically stated therein that Table ‘F’ will not apply. The articles of a private company must contain the three restrictions as contained in Section 2(68).
A company limited by guarantee having a share capital or a company limited by guarantee not having a share capital or an unlimited company having a share capital or an unlimited company not having a share capital might adopt any of the appropriate regulations of Table G, H, I and J respectively in Schedule I [Section 5(6)].
However nothing in section 5 shall apply to the articles of a company registered under any previous company law unless amended under this Act [Section 5(9)].
The articles must be printed, divided into paragraphs, numbered consecutively, stamped adequately, signed by each subscriber to the memorandum and duly witnessed and filed along with the memorandum. The articles must not contain anything illegal or ultra vires the memorandum, nor should it be contrary to the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
CONTENTS OF ARTICLES
The articles set out the rules and regulations framed by the company for its own working. The articles should contain generally the following matters:
- Exclusion wholly or in part of Table F.
- Adoption of preliminary contracts.
- Number and value of shares.
- Issue of preference shares.
- Allotment of shares.
- Calls on shares.
- Lien on shares.
- Transfer and transmission of shares.
- Forfeiture of shares.
- Alteration of capital.
- Buy back.
- Share certificates.
- Conversion of shares into stock.
- Voting rights and proxies.
- Meetings and rules regarding committees.
- Directors, their appointment and delegations of powers.
- Nominee directors.
- Issue of Debentures and stocks.
- Audit committee.
- Managing director, Whole-time director, Manager, Secretary.
- Additional directors.
- Remuneration of directors.
- General meetings.
- Directors meetings.
- Borrowing powers.
- Dividends and reserves.
- Accounts and audit.
- Winding up.
- Capitalisation of reserves.
Utmost caution must be exercised in the preparation of the articles of association of a company. At the same time, certain provisions of the Act are applicable to the company “notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the articles”. Therefore, the articles must contain provisions in respect of all matters which are required to be contained therein so as not to hamper the working of the company later.
ALTERATION OF ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION
A company has a statutory right to alter its articles of association. But the power to alter is subject to the provisions of the Act and to the conditions contained in the memorandum. Section 14(1) provides that subject to the provisions of this Act and the conditions contained in its memorandum, if any, a company may, by a special resolution, alter its articles including alterations having the effect of conversion of a private company into a public company; or a public company into a private company. First proviso to section 14(1) lays down that where a company being a private company alters its articles in such a manner that they no longer include the restrictions and limitations which are required to be included in the articles of a private company under this Act, the company shall, as from the date of such alteration, cease to be a private company. Second proviso to section 14(1) stipulates that any alteration having the effect of conversion of a public company into a private company shall not take effect except with the approval of the Tribunal which shall make such order as it may deem fit.1
Every alteration of the articles under this section and a copy of the order of the Tribunal approving the alteration as per section 14(1) shall be filed with the Registrar, together with a printed copy of the altered articles, within a period of fifteen days in such manner as may be prescribed, who shall register the same. [Section 14 (2)]
Any alteration of the articles registered under section 14(2) shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, bevalid as if it were originally in the articles. [Section 14(3)]
The right to alter the articles is so important that a company cannot in any manner, either by express provisions in the articles or by independent contract, deprive itself of the powers to alter its articles [Walker v. London Tramway Co. (1879) 12 Ch. D. 705].
However, in spite of the power to alter its articles, a company can exercise this power subject only to certain limitations. These are:
- The alteration must not exceed the powers given by the memorandum. In the event of conflict between the memorandum and the articles, it is the memorandum that will prevail.
- The alteration must not be inconsistent with any provisions of the Companies Act or any other statute.
Similarly, where a resolution was passed expelling a member and authorising the director to register the transfer of his shares without an instrument of transfer, the resolution was held to be invalid as being against the provisions of the Act [Madhava Ramachandra Kamath v. Canara Banking Corporation  11 Com Cases 78 (Mad)].
On the other hand, articles may impose on the company conditions stricter than those provided under the law; for example, they may provide that a matter should be passed by a special resolution when the Act requires it to be passed by an ordinary resolution.
- The Articles must not include anything which is illegal or opposed to public policy.
- The alteration must be bona fide for the benefit of the company as a whole.
- The alteration must not constitute a fraud on the minority by a majority. If the alteration is not for the benefit of the company as a whole, but for majority of shareholders, then the alteration would be bad. In other words, an alteration to the articles must not discriminate between the majority shareholders and the minority shareholders so as to give the former an advantage over the latter. [All India Railway Mens Benefit Fund v. Jamadar Baheshwarnath Bali (1945) 15 Com Cases 142 (Nag.)]
In Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. v. Vardhaman Publishers Ltd.  73 Com Cases 80 (Ker.), the Kerala High Court held that no majority of shareholders can, by altering the article retrospectively, affect, the prejudice of the consenting owners of shares, the right already existing under a contract nor take away the right accrued, e.g., after a transfer of share is lodged, the company cannot have a right of lien so as to defeat the transfer.
- Articles cannot be altered so as to compel an existing member to take or subscribe for more shares or in any way increase his liability to contribute to the share capital, unless he gives his consent in writing (Section 38).
- By effecting alteration in its articles, a company cannot defeat escape from its contractual obligation with any person. The company will always be liable in such a case.
- The Articles of Association cannot be altered so as to have retrospective effects. The articles only operate from the date of the amendment [Pyare Lal Sharma v. Managing Director, J.K. IndustriesLtd. (1989) 3 Comp LJ (SL) 70].
- The alteration must not be inconsistent with an order of the Court under Sections 397 or 398 and 404 of the Companies Act, 1956.
- Amendment of Articles relating to Managing, Whole-time director and non-rotational directors requires Central Government’s approval. (Section 268 –This section is of the Companies Act, 1956)
Subject to the foregoing conditions, the Articles in a company can be altered and no clause can be included in the Articles that it is not alterable. Persons who become members of a company have no right to assume that the Articles will always remain in a particular form.
Of course a section or a class of shareholders cannot be unfairly or oppressively treated. Thus, though the requisite majority of members could pass a special resolution to alter the Articles and if the alteration has the effect of making a fraud on the minority, the minority shareholders not being less than the number specified
in Section 397 and 398 could move the Court for redressing their grievances. The Courts have entertained such applications from shareholders even where they are smaller in number [See Menier N. Hooper Telegraph Works (1874) 9 Ch. App. 350].
As already mentioned, a company is not prevented from altering its Articles on the ground that such an alteration would be breach of a contract but an action for damages may lie against the company. [Southern Foundries v. Shirlaw,  AC 701].
The discussion on the above matter will not be complete without referring to the rule in Foss v. Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461 where the court held that no individual shareholder nor a minority of shareholders in a company can take it upon himself or themselves to remedy an alleged wrong involved in the actions of directors if the said wrongful act is something which the majority can regularise and approve of.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN MEMORANDUM AND ARTICLES
The main points of distinction between the memorandum and articles are given below:
- Memorandum of association is the charter of the company and defines the fundamental conditions and objects for which the company is granted incorporation. Articles of association are the rules and regulations framed to govern this internal management of the company.
- Clauses of the memorandum cannot be easily altered. They can only be altered in accordance with the mode prescribed by the Act. In some of the cases, alteration requires the permission of the Central Government or the Court. In the case of articles of association, members have a right to alter the articles by a special resolution. Generally there is no need to obtain the permission of the Court or the Central Government for alteration of the articles.
- Memorandum of association cannot include any clause contrary to the provisions of the Companies Act. The articles of association are subsidiary both to the Companies Act and the memorandum of association.
- The memorandum generally defines the relation between the company and the outsiders, while the articles regulate the relationship between the company and its members and between the members inter se.
- Acts done by a company beyond the scope of the memorandum are absolutely void and ultra vires and cannot be ratified even by unanimous vote of all the shareholders. But the acts of the directors beyond the articles can be ratified by the shareholders.
DOCTRINE OF INDOOR MANAGEMENT
While the doctrine of ‘constructive notice” seeks to protect the company against the outsiders, the principal of indoor management operates to protect the outsiders against the company.
According to this doctrine, as laid down in Royal British Bank v. Turquand, (1856) 119 E.R. 886, persons dealing with a company having satisfied themselves that the proposed transaction is not in its nature inconsistent with the memorandum and articles, are not bound to inquire the regularity of any internal proceedings. In other words, while persons contracting with a company are presumed to know the provisions of the contents of the memorandum and articles, they are entitled to assume that the provisions of the articles have been observed by the officers of the company. It is no part of the duty of an outsider to see that the company carries out its own internal regulations.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF INDOOR MANAGEMENT
The above noted ‘doctrine of indoor management’ is, however, subject to certain exceptions. In other words, relief on the ground of ‘indoor management’ cannot be claimed by an outsider dealing with the company in the following circumstances.
- Where the outsider had knowledge of irregularity — The rule does not protect any person who has actual or even an implied notice of the lack of authority of the person acting on behalf of the company. Thus, a person knowing fully well that the directors do not have the authority to make the transaction but still enters into it, cannot seek protection under the rule of indoor management. In Howard v. Patent Ivory Co. (38 Ch. D 156), the articles of a company empowered the directors to borrow upto one thousand pounds only. They could, however, exceed the limit of one thousand pounds with the consent of the company in general meeting. Without such consent having been obtained, they borrowed 3,500 pounds from one of the directors who took debentures. The company refused to pay the amount. Held that, the debentures were good to the extent of one thousand pounds only because the director had notice or was deemed to have the notice of the internal irregularity.
- No knowledge of memorandum and articles — Again, the rule cannot be invoked in favour of a person who did not consult the memorandum and articles and thus did not rely on them. In Rama Corporation v. Proved Tin & General Investment Co. (1952) 1All. ER 554, T was a director in the company. He, purporting to act on behalf of the company, entered into a contract with the Rama Corporation and took a cheque from the latter. The articles of the company did provide that the directors could delegate their powers to one of them. But Rama Corporation people had never read the articles. Later, it was found that the directors of the company did not delegate their powers to T. The Plaintiff relied on the rule of indoor management. Held, they could not because they even did not know that power could be delegated.
- Forgery — The rule of indoor management does not extend to transactions involving forgery or to transactions which are otherwise void or illegal ab initio. In the case of forgery it is not that there is absence of free consent but there is no consent at all. The person whose signatures have been forged is not even aware of the transaction, and the question of his consent being free or otherwise does not arise. Consequently, it is not that the title of the person is defective but there is no title at all. Therefore, howsoever clever the forgery might have been, the personates acquire no rights at all. Thus, where the secretary of a company forged signatures of two of the directors required under the articles on a share certificate and issued certificate without authority, the applicants were refused registration as members of the company. The certificate was held to be nullity and the holder of the certificate was not allowed to take advantage of the doctrine of indoor management [Rouben v. Great Fingal Consolidated (1906) AC 439].
- Negligence — The ‘doctrine of indoor management’, in no way, rewards those who behave negligently. Thus, where an officer of a company does something which shall not ordinarily be within his powers, the person dealing with him must make proper enquiries and satisfy himself as to the officer’s authority. If he fails to make an enquiry, he is estopped from relying on the Rule. In the case of Underwood v. Benkof Liverpool (1924) 1 KB 775, a person who was a sole director and principal shareholder of a company deposited into his own account cheques drawn in favour of the company. Held, that, the bank should have made inquiries as to the power of the director. The bank was put upon an enquiry and was accordingly not entitled to rely upon the ostensible authority of director.
Similarly, in the case of Anand Behari Lal v. Dinshaw & Co. (Bankers) Ltd. AIR 1942 Oudh 417, an accountant of a company transferred some property of a company in favour of Anand Behari. On an action brought by him for breach of contract, the Court held the transfer to be void. It was observed that the power of transferring immovable property of the company could not be considered within the apparent authority of an accountant.
- Again, the doctrine of indoor management does not apply where the question is in regard to the very existence of an agency. In Varkey Souriar v. Keraleeya Banking Co. Ltd. (1957) 27 Com Cases 591 (Ker.), the Kerala High Court held that the ‘doctrine of indoor management’ cannot apply where the question is not one as to scope of the power exercised by an apparent agent of a company but is with regard to the very existence of the agency.
- This Doctrine is also not applicable where a pre-condition is required to be fulfilled before company itself can exercise a particular power. In other words, the act done is not merely ultra vires the directors/officers but ultra vires the company itself — Pacific Coast Coal Mines v. Arbuthnot (1917) AC 607.
In the end, it is worthwhile to mention that section 6 of the Companies Act, 2013 gives overriding force and effect to the provisions of the Act, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the memorandum or articles of a company or in any agreement executed by it or for that matter in any resolution of the company in general meeting or of its board of directors. A provision contained in the memorandum, articles, agreement or resolution to the extent to which it is repugnant to the provisions of the Act, will be regarded as void.
A corporation, organization or other entity set up to provide a legal shield for the person actually controlling the operation.