“OTHER AUTHORITIES” UNDER ARTICLE 12 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA
The following analysis was done by Brian Dube, a 2nd-year student of Ba. LLB at Lovely Professional University, located in Phagwara, Punjab, India. The following analysis shall illuminate the various interpretations of “Other Authorities”, stated in Article 12 of the Constitution of India, 1949, through various case laws.
Article 12 has gone through various interpretations by the different courts concerning the distinction of bodies that fall under the ambit of “Other Authorities” as envisaged in the article. The current distinction for “other authorities” is the three-point rule which was passed in the Sabajit Tiwari case. It looks at the aspects of function, finance, and administrative control.
2. DEFINITION OF “STATE”
The definition of “State” given in Article 12 is inclusive and it is given a liberal interpretation. This means the definition of “State” in Article 12 can be interpreted in the most liberal way possible. The bare provision of the Article states that, 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. [i]
i. GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT OF INDIA
This refers to the Union Government of India, and the Parliament of India, which consists of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), and the President of India.
ii. GOVERNMENT AND LEGISLATURE OF THE STATES
This refers to the Governments and Legislative Council of States as well as the Legislative Assemblies of the respective states of India.
iii. LOCAL AUTHORITIES
These include bodies that have the power to make rules and/or laws that are legally binding, and such bodies have the power to enforce these laws. These include Municipalities (Municipal Corporations), Village Panchayats, District Boards, etc.
iv. “OTHER AUTHORITIES”
The interpretation of “Other Authorities” has differed from one judgment to another, showing the liberal nature of the article. The term refers to authorities that are not specifically mentioned amongst others in the article. Various interpretations have been drawn by several courts to justify the scope of “other authorities” and some of the cases will be listed and elaborated on below.
3. INTERPRETATION OF OTHER AUTHORITIES BY DIFFERENT CASE LAWS
i. UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS v SHANTA BAI[ii]
The honorable Supreme Court established the doctrine of “ejusdem generis” in this case, which means that the general term which comes after a specific term gets the same meaning as the specific term that it succeeds. Justice VS Ayyar Rajmannar submitted that this term (ejusdem generis) would be used to refer to bodies that performed activities that could be termed as synonymous and had reflections or resembled governmental functions.
ii. SMT. UJJAM BAI v STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH[iii]
In this case, the Supreme Court challenged the doctrine of ejusdem generis and submitted that the doctrine was irrelevant as the specified terms enlisted in article 12 have no common genus. Therefore, the honorable court submitted that “other authorities” consisted of statutory bodies which performed governmental functions.
iii. RAJASTHAN ELECTRICITY BOARD v MOHAN LAL[iv]
The apex court held that the bodies under the scope of “other authorities didn’t have to perform governmental or sovereign functions, instead, the body should be made by the constitution, should have the power to make laws, and it should perform functions which are close to those of the government or sovereignty functions.
iv. SUKHDEV SINGH v BHAGATRAM[v]
The honorable Supreme Court held that bodies that are created by statutes, where the bodies have important governmental functions, and where the government has pervasive control of activities of that particular body, then such body shall fall under the purview of “state” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India. Justice Chandrachud, Chief justice Ray and Justice Gupta in the constitutional bench decision that also consisted of Justices Matthew and Justice Alagiri Swami agreed with the interpretation of other authorities discussed in the Rajasthan Electricity, and further added that the body under scrutiny should possess the power to make laws which are legally binding and punishable by law. They further added that there should exist pervasive control of the government. On the contrary, Justice Matthew submitted that the body should be an agent of the government and that the functions carried out should be for public services. This was an enlightening judgment as it would also include private universities as a State as it not does not only propagate education, which is a public need but the functions are also similar to those of governmental educational facilities.
v. SABAJIT TIWARI v UNION OF INDIA[vi]
This is one of the important cases in the aspect of “other authorities” under Article 12 because it gave effect to the three-point rule for distinguishing the bodies which should be regarded as “State”. The three-point rule focused on the function of the body, financial support and income of the body, as well as the administrative control of the body. The apex court submitted that if all three of these are present then the body would be regarded as a “State” according to Article 12 of the Constitution of India. The three-point rule suggests that if a body is running functions that are similar to those of the governmental bodies, if it is being financed by the government for its survival and operation, and if the government controls majority shares in the body, then that body will be considered as “other authorities” considered under the definition of “State” in the article.
The interpretation of “other authorities” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India has been widened through various judgments. This shows the effective power of the liberal interpretation of Article 12. “Other Authorities has been narrowed down to the three-point rule which gives the nexus between the other authorities and the other bodies specifically mentioned in Article 12 of the Constitution of India.
[i] THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, Art 12.
[ii] AIR 1954 MAD 67
[iii] AIR 1962 SC 1621
[iv] AIR 1967 SC 1857
[v] AIR 1975 SC 1331
[vi] 1975 SCC (1) 485
Author: BRIAN DUBE,
2nd Year Ba LLB