State means

The word “State” has different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used. In the sense of being a polity, it is defined in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition, Volume 11, page 2005, as “a body of people occupying a defined territory and organized under a sovereign government”. The same dictionary defines the expression “the State” as “the body politic as organized for supreme civil rule and government; the political organization which is the basis of civil, government; hence, the supreme civil power and government vested in a country or nation”.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, page 1262, “In its largest sense, a ‘state’ is a body politic or a society of men”. According to Mack, the term “State” may refer “either to the body politic of a nation (e.g. United States) or to an individual governmental unit of such nation (e.g. California)”.

In modern International practice, whether a community is deemed a State or not depends upon the general recognition accorded to it by the existing group of other States. A State must have a relatively permanent legal organization, determining its structure and the relative powers of its major governing bodies or organs. This legal organizational permanence of a State is to be found in its Constitution. With rare exceptions, such as the United Kingdom, most States now have a written Constitution.

The constitutional structure of a State may be either unitary, as when it has a single system of government applicable to all its parts, or federal when it has one system of government operating in certain respects and in certain matters in all its parts and also separate governments operating in other respects in distinct parts of the whole. In such a case the units or sub-divisions having separate governments are variously called ‘states’ as in India, U.S.A. and Australia, ‘provinces’ as in Canada, ‘cantons’ as in Switzerland, or designated by other names.

Our Constitution is federal in structure. Clause (1) of Article I of the Constitution provides that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States” and clause (2) of that Article provides that “The States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule”. The word “States” used in Article 1 thus refers to the federating units, India itself being a State consisting of these units. The term “States” is defined variously in some of the other Articles of the Constitution as the context of the particular Part of the Constitution in which it is used requires. Part VI of the Constitution is headed “The States” and provides for the form of the three organs of a State, namely, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

Article 152, which is the opening Article in Part VI of the Constitution, provides as follows

“152. Definition. –

In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression ‘State’ does not include the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The State of Jammu and Kashmir is excluded because that State, though one of the States which constitute the Union of India, had, in pursuance of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution read with the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 (C.O. 48), set up a Constituent Assembly for the internal Constitution of the State and it had framed the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir which was adopted and enacted by that Constituent Assembly on November 17, 1965. Article 152 also, therefore, uses the expression “State” as meaning the federating units which constitute the Union of India. Part XIV of the Constitution deals with services under the Union and the States.

Article 308 provides as follows:

“308. Interpretation. –

In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression ‘State’ does not include the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

This definition read with the other provisions of Part XIV shows that the word “State” applies to the federating units (other than the State of Jammu and Kashmir for the reason mentioned above) which together constitute the Union of India because in the other Articles of Part XIV wherever the Union of India is referred to, it is described as “the Union”. Article 366 of the Constitution defines certain expressions used in the Constitution of India. That Article, however, does not contain’ any definition of the term “State”. Under Art. 367(1), unless the context otherwise requires, the General Clauses Act, 1897 (Act No. X of 1897), subject to any adaptations and modifications that may be made therein by the President of India under Article 372 to bring that Act into accord with the provisions of the Constitution, applies for the interpretation of the Constitution. Clause (58) of Section 3 of the General Clauses Act defines the term “State” as follows:

“(58) ‘State’. –

(a) as respects any period before the commencement of the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. shall mean a Part A State, a Part B State or a Part C State, and

(b) as respects any period after such commencement, shall mean a. State specified in the First Schedule to, the Constitution and shall include a Union territory.”

This definition, therefore, also confines the term “State” to the federating units which together form the Union of India.

We are now concerned with Article 12. Article 12 forms part of Part III of the Constitution which deals with Fundamental Rights and provides as follows:

“12. 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.”

The same definition applies to the expression “the State” when used in Part IV of the Constitution which provides for the Directive Principles of State Policy, for the opening Article of Part IV, namely, Article 36, provides:

“36. Definition. –

In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires, ‘the State’ has the same meaning as in Part III.”

The expression “local authority” is defined in clause (31) of section 3 of the General Clauses Act as follows:

“(31) ‘Local authority’ shall mean a municipal committee, district Board, body of port commissioners or other authority legally entitled to, or entrusted by the Government with, the control or management of a municipal or local fund.”

Thus, the expression “the State” when used in Parts III and IV of the Constitution is not confined to only the federating States or the Union of India or even to both. By the express terms of Article 12 the expression “the State” includes –

(1) the Government of India,

(2) Parliament of India,

(3) the Government of each of the States, which constitute the Union of India,

(4) the Legislature of each of the States which constitute the Union of India,

(5) all local authorities within the territory of India,

(6) all local authorities under the control of the Government of India,

(7) all other authorities within the territory of India, and

(8) all other authorities under the control of the Government of India.

22. There are three aspects of Art. 12 which require to be particularly noticed. These aspects are:

(i) the definition given in Art. 12 is not an explanatory and restrictive definition but an extensive definition,

(ii) it is the definition of the expression “the State” and not of the term “State” or “States”, and

(iii) it is inserted in the Constitution for the purposes of Parts III and IV thereof.


Central Inland Water Transport-AIR 1986 SC 1571 : (1986) 2 SCR 278 : (1986) 3 SCC 156 : (1986) 1 SCALE 799