State PCS

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State Under Article 12 of the Constitution of India

The term “State” is defined under Article 12 of Part III (Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution of India. The definition of State provided under Article 12 is inclusive but not exhaustive and there are certain authorities and instrumentalities that though not clearly mentioned under the said article, can be brought within the purview of the definition of the state. The first article under Part III is Article 12, which does not guarantee any right but specifies the authorities and the bodies, that are deemed to be “state” and against whom the fundamental rights can be enforced.

The authorities that are expressly included within the definition of Article 12 are as follows:

  • Government and Parliament of India;
  • Government and Legislature of each of the States;

These legislative and executive wings of the Union and the States are expressly and specifically mentioned in the concerned article. However, the other two categories i.e., “local authorities” and “other authorities” are not quite specific. The bodies that come under these two categories have been analysed by the Supreme Court through its various judgments.

What is the importance of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution?

  • Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines the scope of the term “State” used in various provisions of the Constitution. State under Article 12 includes the government and Parliament of India, the government and the Legislature of each of the States, and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian Government.
  • The importance of Article 12 lies in the fact that it clarifies the scope and extent of the term “State,” which is used in many fundamental rights provisions such as Articles 14, 15, and 21. These provisions guarantee equality before the law, prohibit discrimination on various grounds, and provide for the protection of life and personal liberty.
  • By including all local and other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian government within the definition of State under Article 12, it is ensured that these authorities are bound to follow the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution, and any violation of these rights by such authorities can be challenged in court.

The Government and the Parliament of India

This includes the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Indian government at the national level. It encompasses the President of India, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the Members of Parliament (MPs) in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

The Government and Legislature of each of the state

This refers to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the state governments in India. Each state has its own government, which includes the Chief Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and the Members of Legislative Council (MLCs), if the state has one.

Local Authorities

Union of India v. R.C. Jain SC laid down the test for determining which bodies would be considered as a local authority under the definition of state enshrined under Article 12 of the constitution. The issue in this case broadly was ‘Whether Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is a local authority or not?’ In Mohammad Yasin v. Town Area Committee, the Supreme Court held that to be characterized as a ‘local authority’ the authority concerned must;

The Court held that if an authority:

  • Has a separate legal existence
  • Functions in a defined area
  • Has the power to raise funds on its own
  • Enjoys autonomy i.e., self-rule and

Is entrusted by statute with functions which are usually entrusted to municipalities, then such authorities would come under ‘local authorities’ and hence would be ‘state’ under Article 12 of the Constitution.

Local government: According to Entry 5 of the List II of VII Schedule ‘local government’ includes a municipal corporation, improvement trust, district boards, mining settlement authorities and other local authorities for the purpose of local self-government or village administration.

Village Panchayat: In the case of Ajit Singh v. State of Punjab, it was held that within the meaning of the term local authority, village panchayat is also included.

Other Authorities

It refers to authorities other than those of local self-government who have the power to make rules regulation etc having the force of a law. The meaning and scope of this could be left only to the interpretation of courts. It could be observed that other authorities could be authorities of like nature i.e., ejusdem generis.

Principle of ‘Ejusdem Generis’

The maxim refers to where a law lists specific classes of persons or things and then refers them in general, the general statements only apply to the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. The University of Madras vs Shantabai  AIR 1954 Mad 67- Supreme court adopted view of Ejusdem generis.

Other Cases Which Define what will be State:

Ujjam Bai Vs. State of U.P.– No Ejusdem generis and Court interpreted’ other authorities’ in very wider sense. applied.  The Court held that there is no common genus running through these bodies (Legislative of Union and State & Government of Union and States and local authorities) nor can these bodies so have placed in one single category on any rational basis.

In Rajasthan Electricity Board v. Mohan Lal,1967 the Supreme Court held that ‘other authorities’ would include all authorities created by the constitution or statute on whom powers are conferred by law.

 Supreme Court in the case of Rajasthan Electricity Board v. Mohan Lal laid down the conclusive test for determining the bodies that would come under the ambit of ‘other authorities.

 The court held that if an authority

  • has the power to issue directions and any offense against them is punishable by law
  • has the power to make rules that would have statutory effect
  • is an agency or instrumentality of state for carrying out trade or business.

R.D.Shetty v. The International Airport Authority of India, 1979 a similar question was raised before the court that whether International Airport Authority is a state. 

What will be Other Authorities:
  • The court through J.Bhagwati laid down the following test to determine whether a body is included within ‘other authorities’ and comes within the definition of ‘state’:
  • The financial assistance given by the State and magnitude of such assistance;
  • If any usual or extraordinary assistance is provided by the State’;
  • Nature and extent of control of management and policies of the corporation by the state;
  • The state conferred or state protected monopoly status;
Ajay Hasia vs. Khalid Mujib In both the cases  (R.D. Shetty & Ajay Hasia Cases)
Justice P. N. Bhagwati                                                                                    Hon’ble Justice P.N.Bhagwati said that ‘any agency’ or ‘instrumentality’ of the Government would come under the category of other authorities.  He said  that to  decide whether any body is agncy of the Gov. or not, we have to follow  following guidelines-
Entire Share   (1) If the entire share capital of the body is held by the Gov.
Entire Expenditure                                        (2) Where financial assistance given by the Government is so large as to meet almost entire expenditure  of the body.  
Monopoly Status                                      (3) If the body enjoys monopoly status which is conferred or protected by State.
Deep control of State(4) Existence  of deep & pervasive State’s control
Related to Gov.                                        (5) If the  functions performed  by the body or of public importance  and closely related to Govt. functions.
  •  Sukhdev Singh v. Bhagatram, the question before the court was ‘whether ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India) and IFC (International Finance Corporation) created by statutes would come under the purview of ‘state’ under Article 12.’
  • The court, in this case, followed the test laid down by the court in the case of Rajasthan Electricity Board and held these authorities to be ‘state’ as they came within the meaning of ‘other authorities’ under Article 12.
  • Sabhajit Tewary v. Union of India was decided by the same bench by which Sukhdev Singh’s case was decided. The question was whether the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research (CISR), which is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1898 would come within the definition of ‘state’ under Article 12.  

The Supreme Court observed that a body would be ‘state’ if :

  • It is performing essential state function and
  • It is under the pervasive control of the Government.

The court held CISR not to be ‘state’ as per the above said requirement.

  •  U.P. Warehousing Corporation v. Vijay Narain It was held that the U.P. Warehousing Corporation which was constituted under a statute and owned and controlled by the Government was an agency or instrumentality of the Government and therefore “the State” within the meaning of Article 12.
  • In Som Prakash v. Union of India Supreme Court held that a government company (Bharat Petroleum Corporation) fell within the meaning of the expression ‘the State’ used in Article 12.
  • Zee Telefilms v. Union of India, when the issue came before the court whether BCCI is a state or not, the court again applied the tests laid down in Ajay Hasia and Pradeep Kumar’s case and held BCCI, not a state.
  • Chandra Mohan vs. NCERT NCERT is not an State.
  • The function carried out by the corporation would ascertain whether the body is an instrumentality or agency of the state or not; If one of the body is transferred to the government.
  • Sanjaya Bahel v. Union of India & Others case, Delhi high court that the United Nations is not a “State” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and is not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.


Judiciary, though an organ of the state, is not specifically mentioned in Article 12, unlike the executive and the legislature. Whether the judiciary comes under the definition of ‘state’ or not depends on the type of function carried out by the courts.

In the exercise of non-judicial functions such as administrative or legislative, the courts fall within the definition of ‘state’. 

However, in the exercise of judicial functions, the courts cannot be brought within the definition of the ‘state‘.

Naresh Sridhar Mirajkar v. the State of Maharashtra, the issue before the court was whether a judicial order could be in violation of fundamental rights and if such judicial order amenable to writ? The court, in this case, held that, “It is inappropriate to assume that a judicial decision pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction can affect the fundamental rights of the citizens. What the judicial decisions purports to do is to decide the controversy between the parties brought before the court and nothing more.”

Therefore, the judiciary for discharge of its judicial functions cannot come under the definition of ‘state’ and its actions are not amenable to the writ.

A.R.Antulay v. R.S.Naik, the court held that judiciary in exercise of its judicial functions does not come within the definition of ‘state’ under Article 12.

 Riju Prasad Sarma v. State of Assam, it was held by the Supreme Court that when a court is acting in its judicial capacity, it cannot be considered as ‘state’. However, its administrative action is amenable to writ.

ALSO READ: Landmark Cases on Preamble of the Constitution

ALSO READ: Preamble of The Constitution of India

Read more: article 12, constitution of india, fundamental rights of india, indian constitution, father of indian constitution, supreme court of india

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