‘State’ as per Article 12 of the Indian Constitution

FREE LEGAL AID, article 12 of Indian constitution


The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to the citizens of India. In the event, any fundamental right is violated or infringed the citizen can enforce his fundamental rights against the state. And the ambit of the word state has been explained in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.


The term “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.”

Thus, the Executive as well as the legislative organs of the Central and the state.

Definition of State under Article 12

The term “State” is defined under Art.12 of the Constitution for the purpose of  Protection,  Promotion and enforcement of fundamental rights as provided under Part III of our Constitution. The term “Government” includes a department of the government or any institution under the control of a department of the government.

The definition of State in Art.12 is only applicable in the case of Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) and not applicable to other provisions of the Constitution.        Example : Article 309,310, 311 etc..

In other words the “State”/Article 12 contains :

  • The Central/Union Government and Parliament
  • The State Governments and the State Legislatures
  • All Local Authorities within the Territory of India ; and
  • All Local and Other Authorities under the control of the government of India.

Therefore, the term “State” includes the Executive and Legislative organs of the Union and State.

The Central/Union Government and Parliament : 

The Government/Union of India for the purpose of Art.12 includes the Executive organs and Department including the President of India. Further, Parliament comprises of the President of India, the lower house of the parliament that is the Lok Sabha as well as the upper house of the Parliament, that is the Rajya Sabha.   

The State Governments and the State Legislatures :   

The State Government includes the Executive organs and other Departments i.e., the Governments, the Chief Ministers, the District Collectors and other Government Departments. The State Legislative, which is a law-making body, includes the Governor and both houses like State Legislative Assembly and the State Legislative Council.   

The Local Authorities

The term “Authority” means “a person or body exercising power to command”. Or “the power to make laws, orders, regulations, by-laws, notifications etc., which have the force of law and power to enforce those laws”.  

The expression of “Local Authority” refers to a unit of self-government.

Sec 3(31) of the General Clauses Act,1897

Local Authority define as follows;

“Local Authority shall mean a municipal committee, district board, body of commissioner or other authority legally entitled to or entrusted by the Government within the control or management of a municipal or local fund.”

The term Local Authorities includes :

  • Local Government: According to 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.

(Mohammed Yasin v. Town Area Committee) _ The Supreme Court held that the bye-laws of a Municipal Committee charging a prescribed fee on the wholesale dealer wae an order by a state authority contravened under Art. 19(1)(g).

Other Authorities under Article 12:

 The term ‘other authorities’ in Article 12 has to know where been defined. Neither in the Constitution nor in the general clauses Act, 1897 nor in any other statute of India. Therefore, its interpretation has caused a good deal of difficulty, and judicial opinion has undergone changes over time.

  • The functions of a government can be performed either the governmental departments and officials or through autonomous bodies which exist outside the departmental structure. Such autonomous bodies may include companies, corporations etc.
  • So, for the purpose of determining what ‘other authorities’ fall under the scope of State, the judiciary has given several judgements as per the facts and circumstances of different cases.

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, for example, unaided universities.

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 have resorted to the in interpreting ‘other authorities’. The bodies named under Article 12 have no common genus running through them and they cannot be placed in one single category on any rational basis.

Definition of State under Art. 12 includes Judiciary?

Judiciary is not specifically mentioned under Art.12 of the Constitution on India. In the United States, a Judicial decision is included in the concept of state action for the purpose of enforcement of the Fundamental Rights.

 Prem Chand Garg V. Exrise Commission, H.P AIR 1963 SC 996, the Supreme court of India concluded that ‘judiciary’ while exercising its power of rulemaking comes within the meaning of state, but while performing its judicial functions it does not cover within the meaning of the state.


The Constitution of India not only gives a fundamental right to the citizens but also imposes the duty on the state to ensure that the fundamental rights are protected.

The court through its interpretations has widened the scope of the term State to include a variety of statutory and non-statutory bodies under its umbrella. The need to determine what falls within the meaning of state is, to assign the party on whom the duty to implement such right is placed upon.

Not only that, the definition of state under Article 12 has several words which may not have definite meanings, words such as local authorities, control of the government, other authorities, etc. and as seen in the above sections, the courts have, through the course of their judgements, described the extent of the article by laying down a test and discussing the meaning of the terms.

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