Published: 11 November 2022
1. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is targeting to amend the Societies Act in 2023 to strengthen the regulation of societies. We would like to invite the public to provide feedback on the proposed legislative amendments.
2. The Societies Act governs the registration of societies. It ensures that groups that may be used for unlawful purposes, pose a threat to safety and security in Singapore, or whose activities are contrary to our national interests, are not allowed to establish themselves in Singapore.
Key Proposed Amendments
Proposal #1: Tighten the Automatic Registration Route
3. Currently, applications to register as societies can be processed via two routes.
a) Normal Registration Route. This route is for applications that fall within the categories in the Schedule of the Societies Act (“Specified Societies”). Specified Societies are such as those whose objects are related to religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.
b) Automatic Registration Route. This route is for applications that do not fall within the categories in the Schedule of the Societies Act.
4. To strengthen the automatic registration route, MHA proposes:
a) First, to amend section 4A (automatic registration) to remove reference to “without making any further inquiry”. This will allow the Registrar to ask the applicant questions to assess whether the application can proceed to be registered as a society via the automatic registration route.
b) Second, to amend the Schedule of the Societies Act such that applications submitted under section 4A (automatic registration), but require further assessment, can be moved to the normal registration route, even if they do not fall within the categories in the Schedule of the Societies Act.
Proposal #2: To be able to Include Specific Clauses into Societies’ Constitution Before They Are Registered
5. Currently, MHA may request applicants to insert clauses into their constitution, for applications submitted via the normal registration route.
6. If an applicant agrees to the new clauses requested by the Registrar, the Registrar will proceed to approve the application. However, if the applicant does not accept these clauses, the Registrar will not process the application further. Under the common law, it is lawful for the Registrar to request the insertion of specific clauses into the applicants’ constitution before the application is approved. MHA proposes to amend the Societies Act to make it clearer that the Registrar is able to request the inclusion of specific clauses into societies’ constitution before they are registered.
Proposal #3: To Include Grounds That the Registrar Can Consider When Assessing Applications to Amend Rules, Name, and Place of Business
7. MHA proposes to amend section 11 to include the following grounds on which the Registrar can reject an application to amend a registered society’s rules, name and place of business:
a) The amended rules enable the registered society to be used for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare or good order in Singapore;
b) It would be contrary to Singapore’s national security or interest for the amendments to the rules of the registered society to be approved; or
c) In the case of the name of the society:
i. if it is likely to mislead members of the public as to the true character or purpose of the society, or so nearly resembles the name of some other society such that it is likely to deceive the members of the public or members of either society;
ii. if it is identical to any other existing society;
iii. if it is undesirable or offensive;
iv. if it is likely to give the impression that the society is connected in some way with the Government or any public authority, or with any other body of persons or any individual, when it is not so connected.
The above grounds are not exhaustive, and the Registrar can consider other grounds when assessing applications.
Proposal #4: Other Administrative Amendments
8. MHA will also be proposing to make amendments to the Societies Act to support administrative functions as follows:
a) To allow the Registrar to charge fees upon submission of the application, instead of the current arrangement where fees are charged only when the application is approved.
b) To allow societies which are also registered charities to file their annual submissions via the proposed implementation of a “one-stop” service1.
c) To allow for electronic transmission for all service of documents.
d) To allow the Registrar to compound fines for regulatory offences.
9. We welcome your views on the above proposals, along with any other suggestions you may have on the Societies Act 1966. The full report with details on our proposals can be viewed here and on the REACH website. Please submit your feedback to us by 9 December 2022 via email at MHA_ROS_Feedback@mha.gov.sg or mailed to the following address:
Registry of Societies
10 Kallang Road
Re: Proposed Amendments to the Societies Act 1966
10. Your feedback is important to us. All views and comments received will be considered.
 Currently, societies which are also charities have to file annual submissions (e.g. financial statements) to two separate authorities – MHA and Charities Unit. To help society-charities reduce their compliance costs and administrative burden, a “one-stop” service will be established which allows society-charities to file their annual submissions only once.