In simple terms, Article 12 of the Indian constitution states that the state includes the Government of India and the state governments as well. Article 12 defines the state for the purpose of part III and part IV of the Indian Constitution. State of West Bengal vs Subodh Gopal Bose (1954 AIR 92) in this case the court held that the purpose of Part III and Part IV of the constitution is to provide the protection and the rights in the cases where the state infringes the right of the subjects. But since the beginning, there has been always an ambiguity that what comes under the state and whatnot. So in the case of theUniversity of Madras vs Santa Bai (AIR 1954 Mad 67) the principle of the Ejusdim Generis was adopted. Ejusdem Generis means the like nature. So the court held that the state shall constitute the authorities that perform the sovereign duties and the obligations. While in Chandra Mohan Khanna vs NCERT (1982 AIR 76), it was held that NCERT, has been held to be outside the scope of Article 12. NCERT is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act. It is largely an autonomous body; its activities are not wholly associated with the governmental functions; governmental control is confined mostly to ensuring that its funds are properly utilized; its funding is not entirely from government sources.

There is always confusion that whether the judiciary is a part of the state or not. The point has not been made clear but in the case of the Rupa Ashok Hurra v. Ashok Hurra Case, the court stated that no judicial decision shall be against the fundamental rights and the superior courts of the justice do not fall under the ambit of the state under the Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. Also, Article 13 restricts the state to enforce any law which violates the Fundamental Rights. Rati Lal v/s State of Bombay, in this case, it was held that the judiciary is not part of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

R.D Shetty v. Airport Authority of India in this case Justice P.N Bhagwat laid down the five conditions to determine whether a body is an agency or instrumentality of the state.

  • Who is funding the body and whether the share capital is held by the government.
  • control of the state on that body.
  • The objective of the body is to serve the public welfare and is of public importance or the body posses a governmental character.
  • Department of the Government transferred to a corporation
  • It enjoys “monopoly status” which State conferred or is protected by it.

In the case of Masthan Sahib v. Chief Commissioner, the court held that the territory of India for the purposes of Article 12 means the territory of India as defined in Article 1(3).  Over the period of time the court has tried to expand the scope of the term state and include corporations in it, but not all statutory bodies can be termed as the corporations.

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