Article 12 - Definition of State for Part III of the Indian Constitution [UPSC GS-II]

In the applications of the provisions of Fundamental Rights for Indian Citizens, the term ‘State’ has been used in a wide concept. To provide clarity to the term, Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines it. This article will briefly mention the significance of Article 12 and the latest developments regarding the same, which will be important for the Indian Polity syllabus (GS-II) of the IAS Exam.

Part III of the Indian Constitution & Article 12

Aspirants should know what comes under Part III of the Constitution to clearly understand Article 12.

Part III of the Indian Constitution deals with Fundamental Rights. Since Fundamental Rights provide for the security of citizens’ sets of rights in relation with speech, expression, religion, against exploitation, education, language, culture, and constitutional remedies; the term ‘State’ has been used in a wider context to include all such agencies, actions of whose can challenged in the Supreme Court if they violate the any of these fundamental rights. And that definition is given in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

Aspirants can download Indian Polity Notes PDF (Free) for UPSC civil service exam preparation.

Definition of ‘State’ under Article 12

Article 12 defines ‘State’ as:

  1. Legislative and Executive Organs of the Union Government:
    1. Indian Government
    2. Indian Parliament – Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha
  2. Legislative and Executive organs of the State Government:
    1. State Governments
    2. State Legislature – Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council of State
  3. All local authorities
    1. Municipalities – Municipal Corporations, Nagar Palika, Nagar Panchayats
    2. Panchayats – Zila Panchayats, Mandal Panchayats, Gram Panchayats
    3. District Boards
    4. Improvement Trusts, etc.
  4. Statutory and Non-Statutory Authorities
    1. Statutory Authorities Examples:
      1. National Human Rights Commission
      2. National Commission for Women
      3. National Law Commission
      4. National Green Tribunal
      5. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
      6. Armed Forces Tribunal
    2. Non Statutory Authorities Examples
      1. Central Bureau of Investigation
      2. Central Vigilance Commission
      3. Lokpal and Lokayuktas

Note:

  • The definition in Article 12 is only for the purpose of application of the provisions contained in Part III.
  • Even if a party is not mentioned as ‘State’ under Article 12, in cases, where such a party has a public duty to perform or where such a party’s acts are supported by the State or public officials; a writ under Article 226 may lie against it on non-constitutional grounds or grounds of contravention of some provision of the Constitution outside Part III.

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution & ‘Other Authorities’

The ‘Other Authorities’ mentioned under Article 12 means all such authorities that lie within the territory of India and are controlled by the government of India through its acts and amendments.

  1. Ujjain Bai v. State of Uttar Pradesh (UP) – Supreme Court observed that Article 12 winds up the list of authorities falling within the definition by referring to “other authorities” within the territory of India which cannot be read as ‘of or as the same kind’ with either the Government or the Legislature or Local authorities
  2. R.D Shetty v. Airport Authority of India – Five points were mentioned by Justice P.N. Bhagwati to understand if the ‘body’ in news is instrumental to be called as the ‘State’ under Article 12 or not:
    • The ‘Body’ can be called as ‘State’ if its entire shared capital is held by the Government of India
    • Such other authorities have a governmental functional character
    • The absolute control of such authorities lie with the government
    • Such authorities which have an element of command or authority
    • The authorities discharging public service

Quick Facts about Article 12

There are some recurring doubts that aspirants might have while preparing for UPSC 2020 and we are answering them in the table below:

Facts about Article 12 for UPSC
What does Article 12 of the Constitution mean? It means to define the term, ‘State’ which is used in Part-III of the Constitution while mentioning the applications of the provisions of Fundamental Rights of the Indian Citizen
Is Article 12 a fundamental right? Article 12 in itself is not a fundamental right technically, but it defines the term ‘State’ for the Fundamental Rights that are entailed in the Article 14-35.
Is Judiciary a State under Article 12? There is no explicit mention of Judiciary (Supreme Courts, High Court, or State/District Courts) as a ‘State’ in Article 12. However, the organs of the judiciary cannot make rules that are in itself violative of the Fundamental Rights.

  • Rupa Ashok Hurra v. Ashok Hurra Case – SC reaffirmed that Fundamental Rights cannot be violated by any judicial proceedings and also that Superior Courts of Justice do not fall under the ambit of Article 12.

Article 13 of the Indian Constitution mentions, State to not make any law that violates the provisions under Part III

Issues in News Related with Article 12 of the Indian Constitution

  1. The debate whether BCCI should be included under the ambit of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution and shall be termed as the ‘State.’
    • In its 275th report, the Law Commission of India (Advisory Body to the Ministry of Law and Justice) has asked the Government to treat BCCI as an agency of the state under Article 12.
  2. In a recent petition to the Supreme Court demanding an introduction of a uniform financial assistance policy for the lawyers in the emergencies, names of agencies like the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils came to surface. Aspirants should know that these agencies are the creation of the statute and fall under the categories of “other authorities” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.
  3. Sanjaya Bahel v. Union of India & Others case – The case dealt with the issue of the immunity enjoyed by United Nations Organizations (UNO) under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947. Delhi High Court, in May 2019, declared that UNO is not a ‘State’ defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 12 of the Indian Constitution – UPSC Notes Download PDF Here

Relevant Links

Frequently Asked Questions related to Article 12

What does Article 12 of the Constitution mean?

Article 12 defines the term ‘state’ it says that-Unless the context otherwise requires the term ‘state’ includes the following – 1) The Government and Parliament of India that is Executive and Legislature of the Union. 2) The Government and Legislature of each states.

What does Article 13 of the Constitution mean?

According to Article 13 of the constitution, the state is not allowed to any law which is in contravention to Part III of the Constitution of India. However, if such law is made it will be declared as void.The word ‘law’ under Article 13 did not include the constitutional amendments made by Parliament through Article 368 of the Constitution.

What is Article 17?

Abolition of untouchability: Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of untouchability.The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (renamed to Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976) provided penalties for preventing a person from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well.

What does Part III of the Indian Constitution deal with?

Part III of the Indian Constitution deals with Fundamental Rights.In the applications of the provisions of Fundamental Rights for Indian Citizens, the term ‘State’ has been used in a wide concept. To provide clarity to the term, Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines it.

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