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Article 12 of Indian Constitution – Meaning of ‘State’

Posted by Admin on December 15, 2014 | Comment

According to Article 12 of the Constitution of India, the term ‘State’ can be used to denote the union and state governments, the Parliament and state legislatures and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian government.

Article 12 of Indian constitution , meaning of 'state'

Over a period of time, the Supreme Court has expanded the ambit of ‘State’ to include Corporations such as LIC and ONGC since they perform tasks “very close to governmental or sovereign functions”. In fact, the term ‘State’ also accommodates any authority that’s created by the Constitution of India and has the power to make laws. It need not perform governmental or sovereign functions

Understanding the Meaning of ‘State’ Under Article 12

Executive and legislature of Union and states include union & state governments along with Parliament and state legislatures. The President of India and Governors of states can also be referred as ‘State’ as they are a part of the executive. The term ‘government’ also includes any department of government or any institution under its control. The Income Tax Department and the International Institute for Population Sciences could be cited as examples.

‘Local authorities’, as used in the definition, refer to municipalities, panchayats or similar authorities that have the power to make laws & regulations and also enforce them. The expression ‘Other authorities’ could refer to any entity that exercises governmental or sovereign functions.

Not All Statutory Bodies Can Be Termed as ‘State’

Both statutory and non-statutory bodies can be considered as a ‘State’ provided they get financial resources from the government and “have deep pervasive control of government and with functional characters”. ONGC, Delhi Transport Corporation, IDBI, and Electricity Boards are referred as a ‘State’. However, entities such as NCERT cannot be considered a ‘State’ as they are not substantially financed by the government and the government control is not pervasive.

Does State Include Judiciary?

 Although there is no specific mention of judiciary in Article 12, legal experts are of the opinion that the judiciary should be included in the definition of State. According to one school of thought, the Supreme Court has the power to make rules (to regulate practice & procedure of courts), appoint its staff and decide its service conditions (as mentioned in Articles 145 and 146 of the Indian Constitution). Hence, it performs the role of a State.

In one of its latest observations, the apex court has held that judiciary can be considered as a ‘State’ as far as its rule-making power is concerned, but it would not be considered so when it exercises its judicial powers .