• Legis Scriptor

State under Indian Constitution

Authored By- Tanvi Gupta

Keywords: Definition, Other Authorities, Tests, and Private Sector.


‘State’ has been defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. It was necessary to determine the meaning of ‘State’ to further infer its meaning in Fundamental Rights. The State includes the Union government, State Government, Local body, and other authorities. Over the years, the definition has evolved from exhaustive to inclusive. The court has laid down tests of instrumentality to determine which ‘body’ is covered under the scope of State. Keeping in mind the current situation, it is necessary to include private sectors under the ambit of ‘State’.


Part III of the Indian Constitution covers Fundamental rights guaranteed to the people under Article 12 to 35. The purpose behind having our fundamental rights rests in the need for having a just society i.e. a nation ruled by law and not by a tyrant. The concept of State Action is not defined under the Indian Constitution rather it is implied in Article 12. The definition of State under the Indian Constitution was paramount as Fundamental rights are guaranteed against the State. This article has been put to judicial scrutiny at various stages.

Constitutional background of the term ‘State’

A basic review of various Constitution Assembly Debates of India at the formation of the Constitution states that makers of the constitution wanted to keep fundamental rights at higher pedestrian than other rights. These rights before referring to fundamental rights were classified as natural rights. Under the draft constitution, ‘State’ was defined under Article 7. The need to define ‘State’ under Article 12 was to avoid ambiguity and keep Indian State and Province at different footing. The term ‘other authority’ was explained by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as any authority which has the power to make laws or on which discretionary power is vested. The terms in the article were added while keeping in mind the dynamic society.

Definition of State under Indian Constitution

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines ‘State’ includes the following unless the context otherwise, it comprises of Union Legislature, Union Executive, State Legislature, State Executive, local and other authorities within the territory of India and under the control of the Government.

‘Other Authorities’ under Article 12

The ‘Other Authorities’ as defined under Article 12 covers all those authorities which lie within the territory of India and are under the control of the Government of India through specific act or amendments. Previously, the term ‘other authorities’ had a very restrictive interpretation and the principle of Ejusdem Generis was applied. In simpler words, it consisted of only those authorities which exercised governmental of sovereign function.

This was further clarified in the case of Ujjambai vs. State of U. P[1] where the court held that the definition of ‘other authorities’ cannot be narrowed on the principle of ejusdem generis. Also, in the case of The Electricity Board vs. Mohan Lal[2], the court broadened the meaning of other authorities by not limiting it to governmental or sovereign function.

In the case of R.D Shetty vs. Airport Authority of India[3], the court laid down the Public Function test to determine whether a body is an agency of the State. The Hon’ble court highlighted five pillars which are; financial dependence of the State, Major control by the State, Functions of the body are of public importance, government department transferred to the corporation, and enjoys monopoly status.

The test was further made crystal clear in the case of Pradeep Kumar Biswas vs Indian Institute of Chemical Biology[4] where the court held that if any ‘body’ if functionally, financially, and administratively under the control of the Government, it will come under the scope of ‘State’.

It was clarified in the case of Zee Telefilms v. Union of India[5] that BCCI does not come under the ambit of State as it is neither financially nor administratively governed by Government.

Whether Judiciary come under the ambit of State or not?

The definition of 'State' under Article 12 does not explicitly mention judiciary. This question was answered by Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Naresh vs. the State of Maharashtra[6] where the court observed that "while exercising the rulemaking powers the judiciary is covered by the expression state with Art.12 but while performing its judicial functions it is not so included." Hence it can be construed that the Judiciary can be sued for violation of fundamental rights while it is performing the administrative function. However, if the action is judicial it cannot be taken under the ambit of “State”.

Moreover, in the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs Ashok Hurra[7], the Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision and stated that no judicial proceedings could be said to violate any of the fundamental rights as they are not covered under the definition of ‘State’.


The words ‘State’ and ‘Authority’ used in Article 12 remain as great generalities of the Constitution which have undergone drastic changes over time. In the present scenario, non-state actors play a major role in society. Most of the essential services are carried by the private sector by shrinking the role of ‘State’. After the New Economic Policy, 1991 it is necessary to declare ‘private sectors’ as ‘State’. If the fundamental rights are rendered ineffective against private bodies when they violate fundamental rights it is a clear negation of constitutional values and principles.The US doctrine of state action can serve as a tool to interpret and include private actors as ‘State’ under Article 12.

[1]AIR 1962 SC 1621 [2]AIR 1967 SC 1857 [3]6 1979 SCR (3) 1014 [4](2002) 5 SCC 111. [5]AIR 2005 SC 2677 [6]4(1966) 3 SCR 744 [7](2002) 4 SCC 388