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Article 12: Definition of State beneath Indian Structure

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Present Article provides an insight on Article 12 of the Indian Constitution which defines the term ‘State’.

Article 12 of the Indian constitution defines the State which 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 Fundamental rights given to the citizens act as a guarantee and the state is not allowed to go against such Fundamental Rights. If the state violates the FR’s of the citizens, then that person can sue the state.

Now the question arises here, is What is a State?

And how can the citizens sue the State?

So, Article 12 defines the state and is only applicable to part 3 and 4 of the constitution. Article 12 defines 4 authorities to be a part of the state, which are,

  1. Government and Parliament of India,
  2. Government and legislature of State,
  3. Local Authority,
  4. And other authorities.

We will understand the meaning of the term “The State”, not as ordinarily understood but as widely defined by Art 12 by Broadening the meaning of ‘the State’ under Art 12 through various cases.

  • In the case of University of Madras v. Shantha Bai, AIR 1954 Mad. 67, this case focuses on sovereign functions, the meaning of state to be understood as inclusive only of bodies that perform government or sovereign functions. The judges said that the rule of ejusdem generis is to be applied to Article 12- It means that those authorities are covered under the expression ‘other authorities which perform governmental or sovereign functions.
  • In the case of Rajasthan State Electricity Board, Jaipur v. Mohan Lal, AIR 1967 SC 1857, the principle of Ejusdem generis was rejected; this case focused on the structure of article 12 and the judgement was as follows; “All constitutional or statutory authority on whom powers have been conferred by law. It is not at all material that some of the powers conferred may be for the purpose of carrying out commercial activities.”
  • In the case of Sukhdev v. Bhagatram, AIR 1975 SC 1331 (Mathew, J: removing the veil from the structure centric approach to Art 12) and said that Article 12 includes bodies: a) Receiving financial support from State along with an unusual degree of control over management and policies of the body by State (government) b) The operations carried out by the body are ‘important public functions’; here State support or control becomes an irrelevant consideration.
  • In the case of R D Shetty v. IAAI, AIR 1979 SC 1628 A series of tests were given by the court which were not exhaustive in nature and are as follows,

a) Entire share capital of the body owned by State

b) Deep and pervasive state control

c) Monopoly status conferred or recognised by the government

 d) Performs functions of public importance and related to government functions, etc.

  • Pradeep Kumar Biswas v. Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, (2002) 5 SCC 111, there was a 7 judge bench which defined a state as Body having deep and pervasive State control over its functions, finances and administration; Mere regulatory control of the government over the body is not sufficient.
  • In a very famous case of Zee Telefilms Ltd v. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 2677, there was a question as to whether BCCI will come under the category of State under Article 12? The judgement stated that BCCI is not State on the finding that the requisites of Biswas judgment are not fulfilled; YET, when private body exercises public functions (public duty) even if not State, the aggrieved person has a remedy under ordinary law and also under Article 226.
  • In another case, Janet Jayepaul v. SRM University, AIR 2016 SC 73;  University discharges ‘important public functions’ hence, State; therefore, amenable to writ jurisdiction and hence University was considered under the definition of State.

When a body is considered within the definition of State under Article 12 of the constitution, it has the following functions,

  1. It will be bound by the limitations of Part III of the Constitution (although some provisions are not specific to the State, e.g., Art 15(2), Art 17, Art 18(2), etc.)
  2. It will be amenable to writ jurisdiction of SC and HC under Art 32 and 226 respectively
  3. And it will also enjoy a space of action within the prescription of Part III to reasonably restrict the rights, e.g., Art 19(2) – (6).

Whether the judiciary falls under the meaning of the State under Art 12?

This question arises because Art 12 makes an apparent exclusion of judiciary from the State. It makes specific mention of the executive and legislative organs and leaves out the judiciary, which generally falls under the ordinary meaning of State.

Through the cases of Naresh Sridhar Mirajkar v. State of Maharashtra, A R Antulay v. R S Nayak and Riju Prasad Sharma v. State of Assam, it has been established that the judiciary does not fall under the meaning of the State under Art 12 while working on its judicial side.

Therefore, wrong determinations of courts are not amenable to writ jurisdiction. They can, however, be challenged through a petition for appeal, review or revision. The judiciary, however, does fall under the meaning of the State under Art 12 while operating on its administrative and rule-making side. Hence, any violation of Part III by any administrative decision or any rules made by the judiciary may be challenged by a petition under Arts 32 or 226.

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