Constitution of India: Article 12 explained

The term ‘State’ includes the following- executive and legislature of Union and States; all local or other authorities within territory of India or under control of government. Authority means the power to make laws, byelaws, etc.,

The authorities and instrumentalities given under article 12 are:

(1) The Parliament of India;

(2) The State Government and the State legislature

(3) All local authorities, and

(4) Other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian government.

– Government, Parliament and State legislature

– Parliament: The Parliament comprise of President of India, the lower house of Parliament that is Lok Sabha and upper house that is Rajya Sabha.

– Executive: it is that organ which implements the law passed by the legislature. The executives include the President, Governor, Cabinet Ministers, Police, bureaucrats, etc.

– Legislature: the legislature is that organ of government which enacts the laws.

– State legislature: the legislative body at the state level. It comprises of the state legislative assembly and the state legislative council.


Local authority: Authority means a person or body exercising power to command. Local authority is given under section 3(31) of general clause Act in which all the local governing authorities like municipalities, district board, panchayats, improvement trust, port trust, mining settlement boards, etc.

Other authorities-

The term other authorities in article 12 has nowhere been defined in any statue of India. Therefore, its definition can be interpreted by some case laws: –

In the University of Madras v. Shanta Bai, the Madras High Court evolved the principle of ‘ejusdem generis’ i.e. of the like nature. It means that only those authorities are covered under the expression ‘other authorities’ which perform governmental or sovereign functions. Further, it cannot include persons, natural or juristic.

In the case of Ujjammabai v. the State of U.P., the court rejected the above restrictive scope and held that the ‘ejusdem generis’ rule could not be resorted to the in interpreting ‘other authorities. The bodies named under Article 12 have no common species running through them and they cannot be placed in one single category on any rational basis.

Electricity board, Rajasthan SEB v. Mohan Lal

In this case it was held that other authorities would include all authorities created by the constitution or statute on whom powers are conferred by law. It was not necessary that the statutory authority should be engaged in performing governmental or sovereign functions. In support the court cited Article 19(1)(g) and 298, which contemplate of the state in trade or business, and Article 46 which requires the state to promote educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people. In these case other authorities would cover bodies created for the purpose of performing commercial activities or for promoting the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of people.

Political parties- political parties are not covered within the state and therefore no writ can be issued to them by the Supreme Court in Article 32 or even by the High Courts under Article 226.

Judiciary- The answer to this question lies in the distinction between the judicial and non-judicial functions of the courts. When the courts perform their non-judicial functions, they fall within the definition of the ‘State’. When the courts perform their judicial functions, they would not fall within the scope of the ‘State’.

R.D Shetty v. Airport Authority of India – Five points were mentioned by Justice P.N. Bhagwati to understand the ‘State’ under Article 12 or not:

The ‘Body’ can be called as ‘State’ if its entire shared capital is held by the Government of India

– Such other authorities have governmental functional character

– The absolute control of such authorities lies with the government

– Such authorities which have an element of command or authority

– The authorities discharging public service

Vaibhav Sanchar

Central University of South Bihar

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