Memorandum of association is one of the documents which has to filed with the registrar of companies at the time of incorporation of a company. Section 2(28)defines a memorandum to mean “the memorandum of association of a company as originally framed or as altered from time to time in pursuance of any previous company law or of this act.” The definition, however, either does not give us any idea as to what a memorandum of association really is nor does it point out the role which it plays in the affairs of the company.
The memorandum of association is an extremely important document in relation to the affairs of the company. It is a document which sets out the constitution of the company and is really the foundation on which the structure of the company is based. It contains the fundamental conditions upon which alone the company is allowed to be incorporated. A company may pursue only such objects and exercise only such powers as are conferred expressly in the memorandum or by implication therefore i.e. such powers as are incidental to the attainment of the objects. A company cannot depart from the provisions contained in its memorandum, however, great the necessity may be. If it does, it defines its relation with the outside world and the scope of its activities. The purpose of the memorandum is to enable shareholders, creditors and those who deal with the company to know what is the permitted range of the enterprise.
It defines as well as confines the powers of the company; it not only shows the object of its formation, but also the utmost possible scope of its operation beyond which its action cannot go. Lord Cairns in Ashbury Railway Carriage Co. V. Riche pointed out,” The memorandum is as it were, the area beyond which the action of the company cannot go; inside that area the shareholders may make such regulations for their own government as they think fit.”
Purpose of memorandum:
The purpose of the memorandum is two fold.
1. The intending share holder who contemplates the investment of his capital shall know within what field it is to be put at risk.
2. Anyone who shall deal with the company shall know without reasonable doubt whether the contractual relation into which he contemplates entering with the company is one relating to a matter within its corporate objects.
At least seven persons in the case of public company and at least two in the case of a private company must subscribe to the memorandum. The memorandum shall be printed, divided into consecutively numbered paragraphs, and shall be signed by each subscriber, with his address, description and occupation added, the presence of at least one witness who will attest the same.
Contents of Memorandum:
According to section 13, the memorandum of association of every company must contain the following clauses:
1. The name of the company with ‘limited’ as the last word of the name in the case of a public limited company and with ‘private limited’ as the last word in the case of a private limited company.
2. The state in which the registered office of the company is to be situated.
3. The objects of the company to be classified as:
a. The main objects of the company to be pursued by the company on its incorporation and objects incidental to the attainments of the main objects, and
b. Other objects not included above
4. In the case of companies with object not confined to one state, the states to whose territories the objects extend.
5. The liability of members is limited if the company is limited by shares or by guarantee.
6. In the case of a company having a share capital, the amount of share capital with which the company proposes to be registered and its division into shares of a fixed amount.
An unlimited company need not include items 5 and 6 in its memorandum.
In the case of a company limited by guarantee, its memorandum of association shall state that each member undertakes to contribute to the assets of the company, in the event of its being wound up while he is a member or within or year after wards for the payment of the debts and liabilities of the company.
Every subscriber to the memorandum shall take at least one share and shall write opposite to his name the number of shares taken by him.
A brief discussion of the various clauses are as follows:
A company may be registered with any name it likes. But no company shall be registered by a name which in the opinion of the central government is undesirable and in particular which is identical or which too nearly resembles the name of an existing company. Where a company is registered by a name so similar to that of another company, that the public are likely to be deceived, the court will grant an injunction restraining it from using that name.
Every public company must write the word ‘limited’ after its name and every private limited company must write the word ‘private limited’ after its name. The use of the word ‘company’ is however, not compulsory. Companies, whose liabilities are not limited, are prohibited from using the word ‘limited’. The words ‘limited’ may be dispensed with in the name of charitable companies. But companies formed to promote art, science, religion etc, which do not propose to pay dividend but intend to apply all its profits towards the working of the company, can be registered without the word ‘limited’ under licenses granted by the central government.
A company cannot adopt a name which violates the provisions of the emblems and names act 1950. This act prohibits the use of the name and emblems of the united nation, and the world health organization, the official seal and emblem of the central and the state governments, the Indian National Flag, the name and pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi and the prime minister of India.
If a limited company makes a contract without using the word ‘limited’ the directors who make the contract on behalf of the company would be personally liable.
Every company is required to publish its name outside its registered office, and outside every place where it carries on business, to have its name engraved on its seal and to have its name on all business letters, bill heads, notices and other official publications of the company.
Registered office clause:
This clause states the name of the state where the registered office of the company is to situate. The registered office clause is important for two reasons. Firstly, it ascertains the domicile and nationality of a company. This domicile clings to it throughout its existence. Secondly, it is the place where various registers relating to the company must be kept and to which all communications and notices must be sent. A company need not carry on its business at its registered office.
A company shall have its registered office. Such office must be in existence from the date on which the company begins to carry on business or within 30 days after incorporation, whichever is earlier. Notice of situation of the registered office and every change therein must be given within 30 days from the date of incorporation of the company of after the date of change, as the case may be.
The objects clause is the most important clause in the memorandum of association of a company. It is not merely a record of what is contemplated by the subscribers, but it serves a two-told purpose:
(a) It gives an idea to the prospective shareholders the purposes for which their money will be utilized.
(b) It enables the persons dealing with the company to ascertain its powers.
In case of companies which were in existence immediately before the commencement of the companies’ act 1965, the objects clause has simply to state the objects of the company. But in the case of a company to be registered after the amendment, the objects clause must state separately:
(a) Main objects. This sub-clause has to state the main objects to be pursued by the company on its incorporation and objects incidental or ancillary to the attainment of the main objects.
(b) Other objects. This sub-clause shall state other objects which are not included in the above clause.
Further, in the case of a non-trading company. Whose objects are not confined to one states clause must mention specifically the states to whose territories the objects extend.
The subscribers to the memorandum of association may choose and object or objects for their company. There are, however, certain restrictions.
1. The objects should not be against the policy of the constitution. For example, the object should not be such as to encourage untouched ability which has been abolished under our constitution.
2. The objects should not include anything which is illegal or against public policy. For example, forming a company for dealing in lotteries or for trading with the alien enemies.
3. The object must not be against the provisions of the companies act, as for example, authorizing the company to purchase its own shares.
On its being registered, the company has power to do whatever is necessary to do for attaining the objects stated in the memorandum, and to do whatever else is incidental to or consequential upon the attainment of the main object. It is, therefore, clear that any act of the company outside its stated, objects is ultra viruses and therefore void and cannot be ratified even by the whole body of shareholders.
This clause states that the liability of the members of the company is limited. In the company is limited. In the case of a company limited by shares, the member is liable only to the amount unpaid on the shares taken by him. In the case of a company limited by guarantee the members are liable to the amount undertaken to be contributed by them to the assets of the company in the event of its being wound up. However, this clause is omitted from the memorandum of association of unlimited companies.
Any alteration in the memorandum compelling a member to take up more shares, or which increases his liability, would be null and void.
If a company carries on business for more than six months, while the number of members is less than 7, in the case of public company and less than 2 in case of a private company each member aware of this fact, is liable for all the debts contracted by the company after the period of six months has elapsed.
The memorandum of a company limited by shares must state the authorized or nominal share capital, the different kinds of shares, the authorized or nominal share capital, the different kinds of shares, and the nominal value of each share. The capital clause need not state anything else and it is usually better that it should not do so.
Association or subscription clause:
This clause provides that those who have agreed to subscribe to the memorandum must signify their willingness to associate and form a company. According to section 12 of the act, at least seven persons are required to sign the memorandum in the case of a public company, and at least two persons in the case of a private company.
The memorandum has to be signed by each subscriber in the presence of at least one witness who must attest the signatures. Each subscriber must write opposite his name the number of shares he shall take. No subscriber of the memorandum shall take less than one share. This clause need not be numbered.