The Relationship between Society Committees and General Meetings

The hierarchy of authority in a society In my opinion, the highest authority within any society is that exercised by the members in general meeting. A society’s committee, in principle, must be always subservient and accountable to the membership at large through general meetings of members. This point is illustrated by a statement in the judgment in Re South British Insurance Co Ltd (1980) 1 BCR 286 at 288, a decision involving companies (the quotation being adapted to societies): An annual meeting of the [members of a society] is an important event. Not only is there a statutory obligation on the [society] to call such a meeting, it contracts with its [members] by its [rules] that it will do so. It is the one occasion in the year when the [members] have a right to meet the [committee] and to question them on the [society’s] accounts, the [officers’ or executive’s reports], and the [society’s] position and prospects. In addition they have a right to vote on, and if appropriate discuss . . . the election of [the committee]. That statement refers specifically to the importance of an annual general meeting, but the same principle must equally apply also to special general meetings. Management of a society between annual general meetings The decision in Finnigan v New Zealand Rugby Football Union Inc [1985] 2 NZLR 159 at 166 (the Chief Justice’s decision on this point being upheld by the Court of Appeal, at 177) cited with approval a statement from Halsbury’s Laws of England (4th ed) that “Where under the rules of a registered society the control of its business...