The concept of “State” as a sovereign entity has always had a flowing nature with time, not confined within definitive brackets. With ever-changing time and civilizations, the notions of “state” as an operative term has been molded to serve different purposes with respect to politics, society, science, geography, and art. India, just as any other nation in its inception stages faced inevitable difficulties to envisage and define the scope state in its course of formulating the national laws. For instance, Fundamental Rights, which form an integral part of the Indian Constitution, do use the effective term “State” in many cases to draw a clear picture for the people to understand and ascertain the parties, they need to seek remedy from in case of violations of the said rights.

 Expanding the bracket of “State” with respect to Fundamental Rights

The undisputable Fundamental Rights are a group of rights that are enshrined in the IIIrd part of the Constitution of India. These rights are recognized by law as these require a high degree of protection as they can not be violated, snatched, or suspended by the government except in circumstances that call for desperate measures, like Emergency. Another distinct feature that keeps it at a comparatively higher pedestal than other statutory provisions is that the Fundamental Rights are only enforceable against State and its instrumentalists and not against private entities. Therefore, the state i.e., the government and its authorities are obligated to protect these rights and in case of any violation of Fundamental Rights, the citizen is empowered to directly knock at the doors of the Supreme Court of India.

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution envisages Definition in this part, unless the context otherwise requires, the 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.” This definition negates the popular opinion that is based on the narrow construct which believes that ‘the state’ is limited to the union or government. However, the term “includes” enunciates that the definition is not restrictive or exhaustive in any nature but is open to judicial interpretations. As a result, the interpretations over the years have widened the scope of this particular Article beyond the intent, the formulators of the constitution would have had at the time of framing of the Constitution.

In addition, the definition is very clear in drawing a distinct picture by bifurcating the State into four parts namely as – Executive and Legislature of Union, Executive and Legislature of States, Local or Other Authorities under the control of Government of India, and Local or Other Authorities within the territory of India.  Though the first two branches serve its literal inference, the terms ‘local or other authorities’ are rather vague and unclear. However, a sliver piece of statement with respect to ‘local authorities’ can be inferred from Section 3 (31) of General Clauses Act of 1897 which envelopes bodies like a municipal committee, district board, Village Panchayat, a body of Port Commissioners or other authorities entrusted by the Government of India or managed by municipal or local fund. The only part of the definition which has allowed the judiciary to expand the horizon with changing time is the obscurity and vagueness of “Other authorities”.


Scope of Other Authorities

The term “Other Authorities” under Article 12 is nowhere to be found, in any statute of India. Therefore, its interpretation has caused a great deal of difficulty and confusion to the judiciary, as the judicial opinion in this matter defines the State and invariably holds the concerned authority accountable in case of any violation. The numerous case and judgment-based interpretations of ‘Other Authorities” have seen a considerable evolution which can be categorized as – Past Trend, Present Trend, and Emerging Trend by the historians.   

  • ·               Past Trend (Police State)

This conforms to the very first stages of judicial interpretation of the newly independent India. The interpretation was basically narrow and had a limited horizon and operated on the basis of Doctrine of Ejusdem Generis which basically indicates to the authorities belonging to the same nature as that of authorities exercising governmental or sovereign functions. The preceding notion was opined by the Madras High Court in the case of University of Madras v. Santa Bai, wherein the said doctrine was applied. Therefore, as the judicial interpretation was restrictive in nature, the foundation of a Police State was laid which was subsequently continued for a large period of time.


  • ·                 Present Trend (Welfare State)

As the society evolved, developed, and ascended towards a more multilateral civilization, by incorporating the disciplines of globalization and privatization, the law also changed simultaneously. As a result, a more liberal interpretation of “Other Authorities” was laid. The judicial interpretation in this quest of shackling the notions of the police state and welcoming a new concept of the welfare state began with the Supreme Court rejecting the restrictive outlook of Madras High Court in the case of Ujjammbai v. the State of U.P. The Apex Court remarked that the Doctrine of Ejusdem Generis rule cannot be resorted in interpreting Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, as the provision specifically draws differences between the names of the bodies under ‘State’ and the Legislature of Union and States and Other Authorities do not share any common genus nor can these bodies be rationally placed under one single category.


Furthermore, Supreme Court again reiterated the same thing in the case of Electricity Board Rajasthan v. Mohan Lal where the court remarked that the ambit of “Other States” is wide enough to include all authorities created by the constitution or a statute even if they are not directly engaged in performing governmental or sovereign functions. This case proved to be a milestone as primarily it overruled the judgment given in the University of Madras v. Santa Bai putting an end to the concept of the police state and crafting a new outlook. Furthermore, the judgment also cherished that even individual officeholders such as Chief Justice of High Court are also included in the expression “Other Authorities” as he has the power to appoint officials of the court. Similarly, the President of India was also sheltered under the common umbrella when making any order under the Emergency provisions enshrined under Article 359 of the Indian Constitution.


The judicial interpretation with respect to the concept of Welfare State never conformed to a uniform litmus paper test but treated each case separately on its merits and subsequently laid their respective viewpoints. However, despite the courts being extremely diligent in continuing the cat-and-mouse chase with respect to “other authorities” and trying to find new wings to its definition, the judgments pertaining to these cases took a lot of time and eventually ended up defeating the purpose of the judiciary by the time the case ended. Seeing this causality, Supreme Court in another landmark judgment Sukhdev Singh v. Bhagatram, held that the three companies namely – The Oil and Natural Gas Commission ONGC, Life Insurance Corporation LIC and Industrial Finance Corporation IFC, are authorities under Article 12. The court ascertained these companies as states on the grounds that all the three statutory corporations have power to make regulations for the employees adhering to statutory laws, the contract between the employers and employees were statutory given, employees are entitled to claim protection under Article 14 and 16 of against the corporation, etc.

 A broader liberal interpretation was further enunciated in the case of Ramana Dayaram Shetty v The International Airport Authority of India, J. (Justice) Bhagwati of Supreme Court expanded the test given in the aforementioned case and laid out an in an illustrative set of factors that would help in deciding as to whether a body would fall under the definition of the state. The tests were as follows –:

  1. a)     Financial Resources of the company is borne by the State as the chief funding source.
  2. b)     Deep & persuasive State control i.e., the state is directly involved in the appointment of officers in the company.
  3. c)     A department of Government is transferred to a corporation as in the case of Yes Bank currently to be acquired by SBI.
  4. d)     The corporation or company’s functions are of public importance as in the case of AFCONS handling the Delhi Metro Construction.

However, it is imperative to note that these tests are illustrative and is not conclusive, and must be applied with care and caution.

  •              Emerging Trend

Emerging Trend basically aims to horizontally enforce the fundamental rights i.e., extending Article 12 to cover even private individuals. The basic notion behind this concept is that now with the world being a portion-sized food for every individual and state trying to administer and keep a tab on everyone through anti-privacy laws, the fundamental rights must also be reserved against private entities as independent individuals are invariably an agent of the state too. Hence, in this case, the messers and messes are both private entities!


The concept of State is not as unilateral as it seems. The sheer layers of experiments, interpretations, inferences, and judicial contributions have brought the definition of state to adhere to the smooth system which we enjoy today. However, as the time progresses and newer things surface that impact society at large, the laws will also be duly pushed, expanded, and amended.