Article 12 of The Constitution of India, 1950

This article is written by Mr. Yogesh Mishra, Asst. Professor of Law, KIIT Law School, KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.

Article 12 of Indian Constitution States:

In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires, “the State’’ includes the Government and Parliament of India and 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 Government of India.

The framers of the Indian Constitution were of the opinion that in order to create a proper social order and to form a welfare State, there must be some Rights provided to individuals. The Rights that have been given must also be enforceable. The Rights that were given to an individual were stated in Part III of the Indian Constitution under the heading ‘Fundamental Rights.’ but then the question that arises is whether the Fundamental Rights are enforceable or not, if yes, against whom?

The answer to the above question is, that the Fundamental Rights are enforceable against the ‘State.’ The next question that follows is ‘What is State?’. The definition of state has been laid down in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. This definition of State, as stated in Article 12, will apply only to Part III and Part IV of the Indian Constitution.

Article 12 states “the State includes-

  • The Government and Parliament of India;
  • The Government and Legislature of each State;
  • All Local Authorities;
  • Other Authorities”

By the definition of the State under Article 12 of Indian Constitution, the first two points are apparent and very much definite in nature. Even the definition of ‘Local Authorities’ has been laid down in Section 3(31) of the General Clauses Act, “local authority” shall mean a municipal committee, district board, body of port commissioners or other authority legally entitled to, or entrusted by the government with the control or management of a municipal or local fund. So this definition of the Local Authorities had made it clear as to which authorities fall under the definition of Local Authorities and will be considered as State.

Now, the main problem arises when it comes to defining ‘Other Authorities’ as it has not been stated anywhere and it is the Court that has applied its interpretation as to what authorities falls under the definition of State as per Article 12.

There are some leading cases that have been discussed and which show how the Court has interpreted the definition of ‘Other Authorities.’

  • University of Madras v. Shantabai[1]

In the case the court has applied the rule of ‘Ejusdem Generis’ which means ‘As or of the same kind’. Here the court stated that the authorities must have to be of Sovereign Nature like the other three authorities as listed in other three clauses and if it is not, then it will not be considered as State. Hence, in this case, the Court stated that “University is not a State”.

  • Ujjambai v. State of U.P[2]

In this case, the Principle of ‘Ejusdem Generis’ was canceled. The Court held that the principle of Ejusdem Genesis is very much restricted and the other three bodies that have been listed in Article 12 of Indian Constitution has no common thread or genus.

  • Rajasthan Electricity v. Mohanlal[3]

The Court stated that if a body has been created by any Law or the Constitution, it will be considered as a state, no matter whether it performs the Sovereign function or not. Hence, Universities will fall under the definition of ‘State’.

  • Sukhdev v. Bhagatram[4]

In this case, the Court stated that the Authorities like ONGC, LIC, IFC, etc. that have been created under special Statute will be considered as a state under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

  • D. Shetty v. International Airport Authority[5]

The Airport authority issued some tender, and Mr. R.D.Shetty was one of them. He was not allotted the tender, and there was some sort of discrimination done towards him. He brought the case before the hon’ble court on the basis of Infringement of Fundamental Rights. The question that was raised before the Court of law was ‘Whether Airport Authority falls under the definition of State under Article 12 of Indian Constitution?”

The Court stated that the Airport Authority Act, 1971 had formulated the International Airport Authority, which is a legislative body. The Central government had various powers that are exercised in these bodies. It appointed Chairman and other members, and the capital amount was also invested by the Central Government.  Hence, Airport authority was considered as ‘State’ and the court stated that if the Government has-

    • Degree of Control over the management;
    • Extra- ordinary Financial Assistance

Then the body can be considered as a State.

  • Som Prakash v. Union of India[6]

The Court stated that ‘Bharat Petroleum’ which was formulated under the Companies Act will also be considered as instrumentality of State and gave Five criteria as to determine whether a body is ‘State’ or not. They are-

    • Financial Resources of the State being the chief funding sources;
    • Financial Character being Governmental in essence;
    • Plenary control is residing in the Government;
    • The prior history that the same activity being carried out by the Government and made over the new Body;
    • Some element of Authority or Command.
  • Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujid[7]

If a body is acting as an ‘Agency’ or ‘ Instrumentality of a State’, if yes, then that body will also be considered as State.

This case also gave 6 test as to determine ‘State’. they are-

    • Entire Share capital is held by the Government;
    • Financial Assistance;
    • Monopoly Status;
    • Deep and Pervasive state control;
    • The function of the Corporation
    • The Department of government is transferred to the Corporation.

So, in this case, the court stated that, to determine as to whether a body falls under the definition of state or not it has to fulfill the tests that have been stated in the Ajay Hasia case.

  • Zee Telefilms Ltd. v. Union of India[8]

The Court by a majority of 3:2 declined inclusion of BCCI under the definition of State and stated that the relief shall be provided only under Article 226 of the Constitution and not under Article 32 of the Constitution.

There was also a lot of confusion as to whether the Judiciary falls under the definition of State or not? The court has clarified this confusion in the case of A.R.Antulay v. R.S.Nayak[9], where the majority of the judges have expressly said that the wrong determination of the Court cannot be corrected in the proceeding for Certiorari, no judge has refuted this preposition.

Even the court in Rupa Ashok Hurra v. Ashok Hurra[10], the constitutional bench of the court unanimously affirmed the position that no final order of the Court can be challenged under Article 32.

So, in order to understand the concept of Fundamental Rights and against whom to enforce those rights we must know as to what is State, because ‘most of the Fundamental Rights are claimed against the State and its instrumentalist and not against private individuals[11][12].

The interpretation of the term ‘other authorities’ has caused a great deal of difficulties, and the judiciary has changed its opinion from time to time. But now we have an overview and a certain transparent view as to which authorities will fall under the category of state and which will not.


[1] AIR 1954 MADRAS 67

[2] 1962 AIR 1621, 1963 SCR (1) 778

[3]AIR 1967 SC 1857; (1967) 3 SCR 377

[4]AIR 1975 SC 1331; (1975) 1 SCC 421

[5]AIR 1979 SC 1628; (1979) 3 SCC 489

[6]AIR 1981 SC 212; (1981) 1 SCC 449

[7]AIR 1981 SC 487; (1981) 1 SCC 722

[8]AIR 2005 SC 2677; (2005) 4 SCC 649

[9]AIR 1988 SC 1531; (1988) 2 SCC 602

[10]AIR 2002 SC 1771; (2002) 4 SCC 388





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