Article 12 – Definition of State Under Article 12 of Indian Constitution

By Balaji

Updated on: May 22nd, 2023

Article 12 marks the beginning of Part 3 of the Indian Constitution. Article 12 to 35 lays forth the fundamental rights the Constitution assures. It is a crucial part of the esteemed document and presents the Definition of State in the Indian Constitution. The government and Parliament of India along with State governments and their legislatures are crucial aspects of this definition.

Article 12 of Indian Constitution is the first article in Part III. While it does not guarantee any rights, it does identify the authorities and entities that are considered a “state” and against whom basic rights can be enforced. Comprehend information related to Article 12 and gain better clarity on its scope, case laws, and control of the Government under this Article.

What is Article 12?

Article 12 starts the discussion of fundamental rights in the Constitution. However, it does not define them. It only defines the premises where it can be imposed. The majority of the Fundamental rights offered to the citizens are asserted against the State and not against the private bodies.

Article 12 UPSC Notes

As per Article 12 of Indian Constitution, unless the context otherwise requires, “the state” includes the Government of India and Parliament of India, the Government and the Legislature of each of the States, and all local or other authorities within the domain of India or under the authority of the Government of India.

Definition of State Under Article 12

The definition of State in the Indian Constitution is one of the most important parts of this section. The concept of State Under Article 12 of Indian Constitution is defined as follows. The following are included in the definition of “state”:

Definition of State Article 12 Concept of State Under Article 12
Government of India (Central Government of India) All Ministers, Ministries, Departments, Army, PSU, etc
Parliament of India Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, President, Speaker, Chairman, all members, and work is done by them, passed laws, etc.
Government of India (State Government) All Ministers, Ministries, Secretaries, and all people working under the State government, rules, laws, etc.
State Legislature State Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council of State, Members, Speaker, Laws, Gadgets, Documents passed by them, etc.
Local Authority Municipalities (Municipal Corporations, Nagar Panchayats, Nagar Palika), Panchayats (Zila Panchayats, Gram Panchayats, Mandal Panchayats), Improvement Trusts, District Boards, Organizations (LIC, ONGC, GAIL), etc., including the Local Officials like Commissioner, Collector, Police, Government Doctor, Bus Driver, etc.
Statutory and Non-Statutory Authorities Statutory Bodies – Examples: National Law Commission, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, National Human Rights Commission, National Green Tribunal, Armed Forces Tribunal, National Commission for Women

Non-Statutory Bodies – Examples: Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, and Lokpal and Lokayuktas

‘Other Authorities’ and State Under Article 12

Definition of State Under Article 12 also includes the term ‘other authorities. The courts have defined the term “other authorities” broadly, but the list is far from comprehensive. Under “other authorities”, the following bodies have been incorporated:

  • Bodies exerting statutory powers formed under a statute
  • Bodies acquiring substantial funding from the government
  • Bodies serving governmental functions
  • Bodies under the regime of the government

The definition of ‘other authorities’ has shifted dramatically with time. The judiciary has repeatedly attempted to bring more and more bodies under the concept of state for the greatest number of persons to be able to assert their basic rights.

Note: According to the Supreme Court, any private enterprise that collaborates with or for the government qualifies within the definition given in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.


Control of the Government Under Article 12

The control of the government under Article 12 does not necessarily imply that the body is under the government’s complete authority. It simply implies that the government must have some kind of influence over how the body functions.

A body’s status as a statutory body does not automatically make it a ‘State’ body. Both statutory and non-statutory organizations can be deemed a ‘State’ if they receive financial resources from the government and are subject to extensive government oversight.

  • According to the Supreme Court of India’s interpretation of Article 12 of Indian Constitution, it can be articulated that while Article 12 may seem inclusive, it is not exhaustive.
  • It also comprises some authorities that meet the conditions of ‘local authorities and other authorities under the state’s definition, in addition to the executive and legislative institutions of the state.

Is Judiciary a State Under Article 12 of Indian Constitution?

Article 12 of Indian Constitution does not specifically refer to the judiciary (Supreme Courts, High Courts, or State/District Courts) as a “State in the Definition of State in Indian Constitution. However, the judicial branch cannot enact laws that violate fundamental rights on its own.

In the Ashok Hurra Case, the Supreme Court reiterated that Article 12 does not apply to Superior Courts of Justice and that any judicial process cannot violate Fundamental Rights. Article 13 of the Indian Constitution states that no state shall enact legislation disobeying Part III requirements.

Scope of Article 12 of Indian Constitution

Article 12 is often confused with fundamental rights. However, it is important to note that it does not deal with fundamental rights explicitly.

Rather it defines the exact ‘states’ where they can be imposed. Hence, knowing the key terms defined in Article 12 of Indian Constitution is essential to understand its scope better.

  • Government of India
  • State Governments
  • Parliament of India
  • State legislature
  • Local authorities
  • Other authorities
  • Territory of India
  • Control of the Central Government

Article 12 of Indian Constitution with Case Laws

The other authorities under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution are defined within it. However, to gain a better understanding of the same, referring to the case laws will help. Article 12 with case laws example helps in having better insights into how to define authorities other than what is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.

Ujjain Bai v. State of Uttar Pradesh (UP)

As per Supreme Court, Article 12 consists of “other authorities” within its definition. These are the authorities in the territory of India that are not ‘of or as the same kind’ of authorities that fall under the actual definition of the state in the constitution.

R.D Shetty v. Airport Authority of India

In this case, Justice P.N. Bhagwati explained the concept of the ‘body’ that is defined under the ‘State’ under Article 12. He explained five points that cleared the definition of what can be considered an authority under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

  • The ‘Body’ is ‘State’ if the Government of India owns its entire shared capital.
  • If an authority functions as per government character.
  • The Government of India has full control of such authorities.
  • These authorities consist of command or authority elements.
  • The authorities provide service to the public.

Article 12 in Hindi

अनुच्छेद 12 संविधान में मौलिक अधिकारों की चर्चा शुरू करता है। हालाँकि, यह उन्हें परिभाषित नहीं करता है। यह केवल उन परिसरों को परिभाषित करता है जहां इसे लगाया जा सकता है। अनुच्छेद 12 के अनुसार, जब तक कि संदर्भ में अन्यथा आवश्यक न हो, “राज्य” में भारत सरकार और भारत की संसद, प्रत्येक राज्य की सरकार और विधानमंडल, और भारत के क्षेत्र में या उसके अधीन सभी स्थानीय या अन्य प्राधिकरण शामिल हैं।

Article 12 UPSC

Several questions are asked in both UPSC Prelims and mains about what is state and how it is defined under Article 12. Aspirants can refer to Laxmikant to cover and understand the topic or can directly read the detailed Article 12 of the Indian constitution notes.

Candidates can also practice UPSC Polity Previous Year Question to get a better understanding. One of the sample questions is given below.

Article 12 of Indian Constitution UPSC Questions

Question 2017: Which one of the following statements is correct? – Rights are claims of the State against the citizens, Rights are claims of the citizens against the State, Rights are privileges of a few citizens against the many, Rights are privileges that are incorporated in the Constitution of a State

Answer: Rights are claims of the citizens against the State.

Question: Which of the following is not included in the term ‘State’ as defined in Article 12 of Constitution?

i) Parliament, ii) State Legislature, iii) Union Judiciary, iv) State Judiciary (High Court), v) Union Executive, vi) State Executive, vii) All local authorities in India, viii) All local authorities are under the control of Govt. of India.

Options: 1 (i, ii), 2 (iii, iv), 3 (v, vi), 4 (vii, viii)

Answer: Union Judiciary and State Judiciary (High Court)

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