Right to form an Association (Misuse of Article 19): Complete Details


The right guaranteed to form associations or unions is more or less a charter for all working people class in this nation. Trade union activity was not only restricted by most of the Western nations until comparatively recently, but in many nations, it was even looked upon as an anti-social and anti-state consideration.

Working-class had to undergo great problems before they could obtain even the elementary rights that vitally affected their existence as a separate group or class in social norms. It was only in the 20th century, particularly after the First World War, that any significant measure was imposed on the nation to ensure the legitimate rights of the working-class through labor and industrial legislation.

To get these rights fundamental and embody them as such in the Constitution was indeed a much bolder step forward. Fully recognizing the recent trend of those times, the Constitution of India has made the working class right to form association a fundamental one.

The right to form associations or unions can be stopped only in the interests of public order or values There can be no association or union for an unethical or conspiratorial manner. Further nor can there be an association or union to immorality. Interpreting the scope of the right the Supreme Court held in the case laws of State of Madras vs. V.G. Rao:

“The right to form associations or unions has such wide and varied scope for its exercise and its curtailment is fraught with such potential reactions in the religious, political and economic fields. That the vesting of authority in the executive government to impose restrictions on such right, without allowing the grounds of such imposition, both in their factual and legal aspects, to be duly tested in a judicial inquiry, is a strong element which, in our opinion, must be taken into account in judging the reasonableness of the restrictions imposed on the exercise of the fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (c).”

Right to Form Association:

  • It is a fundamental Right given in the Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(c).
  • It Proclaims that all citizens shall have the freedom to form associations or unions for a lawful purpose.
  • The right to form associations indicates that several individuals get together and form voluntarily an association with a common aim, legitimate purpose and having a community of interest.
  • It is not an absolute Right rather it has certain Reasonable Restrictions.

The right to form associations or unions, however, is not available to every citizen in the same measure. A member of the public services, although he is a citizen, cannot claim the right to the extent that a private citizen can. Being a Government servant, he is bound by his service rules and he cannot challenge his service rules on the ground that they stand in his way of fully enjoying the right to form associations. This has been made clear by the Supreme Court in Balakotiah vs. The Union of India.

Who can you this freedom?

Right to form an association under Armed Forces Articles 33 of the Constitution empowers the Parliament to pass a law restricting the right to form a political association to : 

  1. The members of the Armed forces. 
  2. The members of the Forces charged with or 
  3. Persons employed in any bureau or other organization established by the state for purposes of intelligence or counterintelligence, or 
  4. Persons employed in or connection with the telecommunication system.

Reasonable Restriction:

Like any other Fundamental Right under Article 19, this right to association is also not absolute and is subjected to regulation in social interest. Article 19(4) specifically empowers the state to make any law to fetter, abridge or abrogate any of the rights under Article 19(1)(c). Clause (4) empowers the state to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of Right to Form Association, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, Public order and Morality, Here Public order means public peace, safety, and tranquility.

Essential Elements of Restriction:

  • It can be imposed only by the authority of law.
  • The restriction must be Reasonable.
  • The restriction must be related to the purpose specifically mentioned in Clause 4.
  • Judiciary has the power to test the validity of these Restrictions on two grounds: whether the restriction is reasonable, and whether it is for the purpose mentioned in the clause under which the restriction is being imposed.

The Constitution of India has given fundamental rights to the protection of associations. Article19(1)(c) speaks about the Fundamental right of a citizen to form associations and unions. Under clause (4) of Article 19, however, the State may by law impose reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of public order or morality or the sovereignty and integrity of India. The right of association pre-supposes organization. It as an association or permanent relationship between its members in matters of common concern. It thus includes the right to form companies, societies, partnership, trade union, and political parties. The right secure isn’t simply the proper to create association however additionally to continue with the association intrinsically. The freedom type to create association implies additionally the liberty to create or to not form, to join or not to join, an association or union.

In Damayanti v. Union of India, The Supreme Court held that “The right to form an association”, the Court said, “necessarily ‘implies that the person forming the association has also the right to continue to be associated with only those whom they voluntarily admit in the association. Any law by which members are introduced in the voluntary association without any option being given to the members to keep them out, or any law which takes away the membership of those who have voluntarily joined it, will be a law violating the right to form an association”.

According to my view technically, an argument can be raised that Article 19 allows freedom to form associations. However, labor unions are ruled by the trade unions act. Therefore, the constitutional guarantee is limited by the statutory provisions. Now trade unions act doesn’t mention the formation of trade unions as a matter of right however a lot of as a selection and completion of formalities. Therefore, it can’t be said that there is a right to form trade unions.