State under Indian Constitution

Part III of the Indian Constitution consists of Fundamental Rights which are guaranteed to every citizen of the nation irrespective of their religion, place of birth, religion, caste or gender. These rights can be claimed against the State and its authorities and not against the private bodies. Article 12 of the Indian Constitution gives the definition of the state. It is very important to determine what bodies fall under the definition of state in order to determine on whom the responsibility has to be placed.

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution states,

“Definition 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 have used the word ‘the State’ in a wider sense. It is not restricted to the Union or State governments. The word ‘include’ in the article shows that definition is not exhaustive and through judicial decision, the courts have widened the scope of article.

According to Article 12 “State” includes:

  1. Government and Parliament of India
  2. Government and Legislature of each State
  3. All local or other authorities within the territory of India.
  4. All local or other authorities who are under the control of the Government of India.

Government and Parliament of Union

  • Parliament – In India, parliament is the supreme law-making body of the government of India. India follows a bicameral legislature which consists of the President, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States or Upper House) and the Lok Sabha (House of People or Lower House).
  • Executive – It is that organ of the government of India which is responsible for the implementation of laws which are passed by the legislature and the policies of the government of India.
  • Legislature – The legislature is that organ of the government which enacts law for the people of India. It is an assembly consisting of elected representatives of the people.
  • Government – An organized group of people who govern the state forms the government. Government includes all of its organs (i.e.) Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha form the legislative organ of the government. The Indian President is the head of the state and he/she exercises his/her power directly or through subordinate officers. The Supreme Court, High Courts and various civil, criminal and family courts form the judiciary organ of the government.

Government and Legislature of State

The legislative body at the state level is known as the State legislature. The State Legislature includes State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabha) and State Councils (Vidhan Parishad). In India, most of the states follow a unicameral legislature. There are only 7 states in India which have their State Councils (Vidhan Parishad).

Local Authorities

Local authorities include Municipalities, Panchayats, District Boards etc. In many judicial decisions, different authorities have been held as local authority.

Case: Rashid Ahmed vs Municipal Board, Kairana[1]

It was one of the first cases where municipalities were held to be local authority under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

Case: Union of India vs RC Jain[2]

In this case, certain tests were laid down to determine which authorities fall under the category of “local authorities”. An authority will be considered as a “local authority” if:

  1. It has a separate legal existence
  2. It functions in a defined area
  3. It has the power to raise funds on its own
  4. It enjoys autonomy
  5. It is entrusted by statute with functions which are usually entrusted to municipalities.

Other authorities

The term “other authority” mentioned under Article 12 of Indian Constitution is neither defined in the Constitution nor in any other statute of India. The scope of this term has widened through various judgements and it now includes many authorities.

In the case of University of Madras vs Shanta Bai[3], it was held that the word “other authority” in Article 12 must be interpreted by applying doctrine of ‘Ejusdem Generis’ (i.e.) of the like nature. It would cover only those bodies which are performing governmental or sovereign functions. Thus, it was held that universities come under the preview of the state.

In the case of Electricity Board Rajasthan vs Mohan Lal[4], the Supreme Court held that only those bodies would fall under Article 12 which have been created by a statute or by the Constitution even if they do not perform governmental or sovereign function.

In the case of R.D. Shetty vs International Airport Authority[5] the Supreme Court laid down certain test to decide whether a particular authority is a state or not:

  1. Chief Financial control & funding by the State
  2. Deep & Pervasive state control
  3. A government department has been transferred to a corporation
  4. Function of Corporation are of public importance
  5. The corporation enjoys monopoly status which state conferred or state protected.

It is to be noted that these tests are only illustrative & not exhaustive.

Judiciary as a State

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution does not define the word ‘judiciary’. As a result, the judicial authorities have the power to pronounce judgements which may contravene with fundamental rights of an individual. If ‘Judiciary’ comes under the head of ‘State’, then according to this article, the courts would be under the obligations to ensure that fundamental rights of the citizens are not violated. Accordingly, the judgements given by the court cannot be challenged on the ground that they violate fundamental rights of an individual. So, when the courts perform the non-judicial functions, they fall under the category of ‘State’. But when courts perform judicial functions then they do not fall under the category of ‘State’.

In the case of Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar vs State of Maharashtra[6], for the first time this question came up (i.e., whether the judiciary is part of the state or not?) to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court observed that if they decide that the court is a state, then writs under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution cannot be issued against its orders or judgements that violate the fundamental rights of the citizens.


The Constitution of India provides every citizen fundamental rights and imposes the duty on the state to ensure that these rights are protected. The court through its various judgements have widened the scope of the word ‘State” and it now includes many statutory as well as non-statutory bodies within its meaning. The scope of Article 12 is increasing day by day so as to provide justice to the people whose rights are violated.

[1] AIR 1950 SC 163

[2] AIR 1981 951

[3] AIR 1954 Mad 67

[4] AIR 1967 1857

[5] AIR 1979 1628

[6] AIR 1967 SC 1

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