What is “STATE”- Article 12 with Case Laws

Definition of State – Article 12

“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.”

Simply, State means and include :

  1. The government and Parliament of India i.e. Executive and Legislature of the union.
  2. The government and the Legislature of each state i.e. Executive and Legislature of States.
  3. All local or other authorities within the territory of India.
  4. All local or other authorities under the control of the Government of India.
  • Thus, the term ‘STATE’ includes executive as well as the legislative organ of the Union & States.
  • It is the actions of these bodies that can be challenged before the Court as violating Fundamental Rights.
  • This definition is not exhaustive but it is an inclusive one.

In order to understand the concept of State, we have to first of all explain the words like –

  1. Authority : In the context of Article 12, the word ‘Authority’ Means the power to make laws, orders, regulations, bye-laws, notifications, etc which have the force of law & have power to enforce these laws.
  2. Local Authority : This is defined in Section 3(31) of the general clauses Act, 1897. It refers to authorities like Municipality, District Board, Panchayat, Improvement Trust & Mining Settlement Boards.
  1. Other Authorities : This is not defined anywhere, So we have to rely upon the Court’s Interpretation.

All controversies arises with the “Other Auhorities” that which authority comes under the ambit of “Other authorities”. The courts provides various judgements in various cases accordingly to conclude this discussion.

Case laws :

University of Madras Vs Shantabai [1954 Madras]

The Madras High Court held that other authorities could only indicate authorities of a like nature that is ejusdem generis. So construed, it could only means authorities exercising governmental or sovereign functions. It can’t include persons, natural or juristic such as University, unless it is mentioned by the states.

But this restrictive interpretation of Madras High court was rejected by the Supreme Court in :

Ujjambai VS. State of U.P [1962 S.C]

It was held by the court that ejusdem generis rule could not be resorted to in interpreting this expression as there is no common genus running through these named bodies in article 12 nor can these bodies be so place in one single category on any rational basis.

Electricity Board Rajasthan VS. Mohanlal [1967 S.C]

In this case it was held by the court that the expression other authorities is wide enough to include all the authorities created by the constitution or statute on whom powers are conferred by law. It is not necessary that the statutory authority should be engaged in performing governmental or sovereign functions.


The test laid down by the Supreme Court in Electricity Board, Rajasthan case  was followed by Supreme Court in :

Sukhdev Singh VS. Bhagat Ram [1975 S.C]

It was held that ONGC, LIC and IFC are authorities within the meaning of article 12 of the constitution. They are State, all of them have power to make regulation under the statute for regulating conditions of service of their employees. The employees are entitled to claim protection of article14 and 16 of the constitution against the corporation.

 The modern concept of state given earlier by Justice Mathew was finally summarised by Justice Bhagwati in:

R.D Shetty VS. Airport Authority of India [1979 S.C]

Here the court held that, If a body is an agency or even instrumentality of government, it may still be consider as a state for the purpose of article 12. Whether it is a statutory corporation or a government company or even a registered society.


Ajay Hasia VS. Khalid Mujib [1981 S.C]

Here the Supreme Court provided Six tests to determine the agency or Instrumentality of the State–

  1. If the entire share capital of the body is held by the government.
  2. If  the Maximum financial assistance is provided by the government to a corporation to meet its entire expenditure.
  3.  The corporation has been conferred Monopoly by the state.
  4. Deep and pervasive state control.
  5. If the corporation is Performing major public functions which are closely related with government functions.
  6. If majority of its share capital is held by the government.


Pradeep kumar Biswas VS. Indian Institute of Chemical Biology [2002 S.C]

The six test of Ajay Hasia case was replaced by three Tests in this case.

The Apex court overruled Ajay Hasia case and held that a body to be considered as a state where it has to be establish that it is Financially, Functionally or Administratively dominated by or under the control of the government.

On the other hand, when the control is merely regulatory, whether under or otherwise, it would not serve to make the body a state.


Zee telefilms VS. Union Of India [2005 S.C]

In this case the apex court was split in the ratio 3: 2. The majority held B.C.C.I not to be state by applying Pradeep Kumar Bishwas test whereas the minority held B.C.C.I to be state by applying Ajay Hasia test. 

Lt. Governor Delhi VS. Vk Sodhi [2007 S.C]

Here It is to be noted that an entity which is state under article 12 does not becomes the state government. The employees of such body are not holders of civil post or employees of the state Government. The government is not liable to pay their salaries and the B.C.C.I is not a state. The State Council of Educational Research and Training (S.C.E.R.T) is also not a state.

Whether Judiciary is included in State under Article 12 or not?

The Judiciary although an organ of the states like the executive and legislature, is not specifically mentioned in article 12.

  The controversy arises whether the word judiciary which is omitted from the definition of the State in article 12 is deliberate or not and we come to the conclusion that the omission of Judiciary under article 12 is deliberate.


Naresh S. Mirajkar VS. State of Maharashtra [1967 S.C ]

The Nine Judges Bench decided that even if a Court is state, a writ under article 32 can’t be issued to High Court by the Supreme Court, of competent jurisdiction against its judicial order because such order cannot be said to be in violation of the fundamental rights.

What the judicial decision purports to do is to decide the controversy between the parties and nothing more.

 The Supreme Court held that when the Courts are performing its administrative functions, they can be considered as state, However when the courts are performing their judicial functions, they are not state within the meaning of article 12.

A.R Antulay VS. R.S Nayak [1988 S.C ]

It was held that the court could not pass an order or issue a direction which would be violative of fundamental rights. So, It can be said that the expression “State” includes Judiciary also.

Common cause VS. Union Of India [2015 S.C]

Here the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “Part 4 of the Constitution is a guiding light for the Judicial organ of the state as the Executive & Legislature are all three being “State” under Article 12 of the Constitution”.



“Common cause” case doesn’t overruled Naresh S. mirajkar case. So the settled law is that of Naresh S. Mirajkar case. That is, “Judiciary is a state only when it is performing its administrative functions and not when performing its Judicial Functions”.


Also Read :

Historical background of constitution

Salient features of Constitution 

Basics of fundamental rights

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