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

Debate Summary

Article 12 (Draft Article 7), the gateway provision of the Part III – Fundamental Rights – of the Indian Constitution, was debated in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1948. It defined the scope of the term ‘State’ – used extensively in the constitutional text. This Article, as one Assembly member argued, was indispensable to enforce fundamental rights as it identified those authorities upon whom fundamental rights were binding.

 

Members of the Assembly were concerned that the wording of the Article was too vague and some moved amendments. They specifically had trouble with the term ‘other authorities’ which would in effect bring in almost every government agency or officer under the ambit ‘State’. One member had a semantic complaint: while it was fine for fundamental rights to be binding on institutions like district boards and municipalities, to refer to these institutions as the ‘State’ was inappropriate.

 

In the end, it was clarified that ‘authorities’ would refer those that had ‘the power to make laws or the power to have discretion vested in it’. Also, in response to members who were opposed to the use of the term ‘State’, it was argued that it would be cumbersome to list out the various institutions upon whom fundamental rights were binding; so the term ‘State’ - with its comprehensiveness and economy of words – was useful to adopt throughout the fundamental rights section and the Constitution.

 

The Assembly adopted the Article with just one amendment: ‘or under the government of India’ was added to the end of the Article to account for those territories which were not part of India but nonetheless under the control of the Indian government.