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Ajay Hasia and others v. Khalid mujib Sehravardi

Case nameAjay Hasia And Others V. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi
Citation(1981) 1 SCC 722
CourtSupreme Court
Case typeWrit petition 
PetitionerAjay Hasia And Others
RespondentKhalid Mujib Sehravardi
BenchHon’ble Chief Justice Y.Y. Chandrachud, P.N. Bhagwati, V.r. Krishna Iyer, S. Murtaza Fazal Ali and A.D. Koshal, JJ.
Date of Judgement deliveredNovember 13, 1980


The interpreters of the constitution have always wondered about the agencies and organisations involved in the definition of the “state”. Many qualify as the state in itself while many of them can be categorised under the subhead “other authorities” mentioned in Article 12, the definition of state. Part III and IV and XIV of The Indian Constitution has a reference to different stakeholders involved in the definition of state. State authorities come under part III and IV while the other authorities fall under the ambit of part XIV of the constitution. Article 12 defines what do we mean by “the “state” which 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.” Tests of directness have been in use since many years of the judiciary in India. It refers that only authorities who can perform sovereign and administrative functions of the state or are directly funded by the state in totality, falls under the ambit of Article 12. We know that Article 13 i.e., the judicial review and the fundamental rights can be enforced against only the state. Hence defining the purview of article 12 becomes very important to invoke article 13 or part III of the constitution. In this Judgement, the courts have laid down the test of instrumentality or agency of the state to define authorities that could come under subhead “other authorities” in the definition of Article 12. 


The case pertains to Regional Engineering college, Srinagar which is one among those 15 colleges of union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, registered and managed under the head “societies”, falling under the ambit of government control. These societies are registered under J&K registration of societies act 1898. The whole management and administrative functions are directly or indirectly under the state control. The funding in itself is provided absolutely by the collaboration of the central government and J&K state government. The recruitment of the college faculty and other staff are solely done by the representatives of the government and most of the time, the faculty comprises representatives or appointees of the government themselves. 

The present scenario emerges from the writ petition filed by the said petitioners to invoke article 32 against the college authorities allegedly coming under the ambit of “the state”. Their submissions go as that they applied for an admission in the B.E. Course of the said college as a response to the notice issued by the college authorities regarding admission vacancies. However, they pleaded that the admission procedure and the subsequent results holds no substance and thus invalid. The said procedure consisted of the qualifying examination having value of 100 marks and the vice voce examination of 50 marks which the petitioner claimed that was implemented unfairly in disfavour of the petitioners. The College authorities, as alleged have unjustly determined the results of the examination on both the level of examinations as the petitioners who have scored more marks in qualifying than the present admitted applicants who have been able to admissions solely on the basis of vice voce examination which is almost 50 % of the qualifying examination. The interview round i.e., vice voce exam lasted for only 2 or 3 mins and questions totally irrelevant to the admitted course were asked and hence cannot qualify as the reliable tests for determining admissions, as claimed by the petitioners. Various questions arose as to the maintainability of the petitioners and the admission procedure’s reliability. 


1.Whether the said college comes under the definition of state under article 12 and hence whether the writ is maintainable or not?

2. Whether the admission procedure of the college is violative of article 14 as alleged by the petitioners?

Contentions of the petitioner

1. On issue 1, the counsel on behalf of the petitioners argued that the college in the present case has been managed both administratively and financially by the central government and J&K State government since its establishment. It is registered under the statute; J&K registration of societies act 1898 which further solidifies the fact that it is well under the purview of the definition of state in article 12. As alleged further, they say the present writ under article 32 is maintainable as the Regional Engineering College, Srinagar falls under the ambit of “other authorities” in the definition of article 12 and has breached the fundamental rights of the petitioner in determining its admission results. Therefore, they can be held accountable for their breach in the court of law.

2. On issue 2, the counsel submitted that the granting 50 marks solely for vice voce examination which lasted only for 2 or 3 minutes, that too which asked only questions about their personal lives and nothing relevant to the course cannot be solely adhered for determination of final admission results to the said college. They also submitted that as held in various precedents, the interview round for any admission procedure could not amount to more than 1/4th of the total marks of the rounds of admission tests. They claimed that their right to equality under article 14 has been violated in the present circumstance as they have scored more than all the admitted students in their qualifying examination and lacked only in vice voce examination which as they have alleged has been conducted in an unjust and biased manner. The question which arose for the consideration was whether it was a really unjust procedure amounting to breach of fundamental rights as alleged.

Contentions of the respondents

1. The counsel on behalf of the respondents, after hearing the contentions of the petitioners countered by way of elaborate submissions on issue 1 and questioned the maintainability of the present writ petitions on the basic ground that the college does not amount to the state authority under article 13 and hence cannot be subjected to either article 13 or article 32 as in the present case. They relied strongly on Sabhajit Tiwari v. Union of India and contented that the decision of the 5-judge bench in this case laid down clearly that any society registered under the societies registration act 1860 cannot be regarded as “the State” under article 12. They said that other precedents such as the international airport authority case specifically laid down the differences between state and such societies and few tests to determine that societies don’t amount to being state or other authorities under the blanket of article 12. They argued that the societies even if controlled by the state financially or some other way has their own independent authority to take sovereign decisions to run the organisations under it and thus since the sovereign functions and sole decisions are its authority far apart from the state, they cannot be considered as state and held accountable for any breach of fundamental rights. Hence, the present writ under article 32 is not maintainable against the non-state or juristic entity which is the college.

2. On issue 2, the counsel submitted that the petitions claiming the breach of fundamental rights in the admission procedure hold no value in the eyes of law. They contend that there is no hard and fast rule of keeping the proportion of both the examinations in a certain way as evident from the precedents they reflected. They say that the interview lasted for 4 to 5 minutes on an average for all the applicants and consisted of various relevant interrogative rounds against the allegation of the petitioners. They also contend that the aggregate value of both the rounds have been taken into account while calculating the final results for the admission in to the said B.E. Course in the college, hence the allegation that they have manipulated the results in favour of few selected candidates and justly calculated the vice voce exam results is absolutely incorrect. Also, article 14 is not violated here as all the candidates who applied for the admission got an equal opportunity to appear for both the rounds of the admission tests and prove their worth and there is no concrete evidence by the petitioners on their submission that the applicable admission procedure was defaulted and biased in favour of the selected candidates. 


1. decision and elaboration by the court on issue 1

The courts ruled in favour of the petitioners on the first issue and said that the present writ is maintainable in the eyes of law as the said college falls under the ambit of article 12 under the subhead “other authorities”.

They analysed various clauses of memorandum of understanding and rules of conduct signed in the registered college authority. They pointed out that the Society’s composition was dominated by delegates selected by the Central Government and the governments of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh with the agreement of the Central Government. The money needed to administer the college was given wholly by the Central Government and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, and the Society could only obtain further funds with the agreement of the State and the Central Governments. The Society’s rules have also to be approved by the government at both the levels primarily. With the above contentions of the petitioners and juristic analysis of their submissions in the light of working of the college under the overall control of the state, the bench agreed that the Regional Engineering College, the registered society in dispute is a “State” under article 12 and thus the present writ petition is maintainable. It makes no difference whether the corporation is established by legislation or under statute for this purpose. The criterion is whether it is a government instrumentality or agency, not how it was founded. The question must not be how the juristic person is born, but why it has been created.

They also laid down a test to find the instrumentality or agency of a state category under article 12: 

If the government owns the whole share capital of the body, it strongly suggests that the body is a tool of the government. When the government provides financial aid that is so enormous that it covers practically the whole spending of the body, it may imply that the body is imbued with governmental character. It is a relevant aspect if the body has monopoly status granted or protected by the state. The presence of profound and widespread state control may indicate that the body is a state tool. If the body’s functions are of public importance and are closely tied to governmental functions, it is a relevant element to regard the body as an instrumentality of government.

2. Decision and elaboration on issue 2

On issue 2, the court ruled slightly in favour of respondents otherwise they had a pretty lawful and unbiased stance on this issue. The bench laid down few guidelines on whether the selection procedure was violative of article 14.

The bench basically laid down these justifications to its order; It said that keeping the evidence put before court in mind, it is well settled that any state authority or other institution is well within its ambit to form its own selection procedural rules without any hard and fast restrictions on it. The college in the present case was correct in conducting both the exams and it cannot be absolutely deciphered that they acted biasedly in the same. However, keeping the vice voce examination of 50 marks out of total 150 is way too much for the selection criterion and can be reviewed for future admission tests in the college. They also said that the present entry of applicants into the college cannot be overturned as it would cause injustice to the students who have got admission, neither the petitioners can be allowed to gain admission benefits as it won’t be really good in eyes of law and is based on a mere suspicion of biasedness of the respondents. 

On article 14’s violation, the court closely examined the difference between doctrine of classification and article 14. It said merely because the things have been classified into hierarchy or its weight of values does not necessarily imply that they have been treated unequally or unjustly according to article 14 of the Indian Constitution. It also said that the petitioners’ contention that interview rounds are not suitable to judge a person’s suitability for the post as it is impressionist and can be manipulated and influenced by nepotism, is of no legal substance as despite of all the arguments against it, the oral rounds of interviews are an essential part of the Indian selection systems everywhere as long as it is conducted in a fair manner. We see no actual and concrete evidence against the respondents that they took the vice voce examination only for 2 to 3 minutes and that too with no relevancy. The respondents have clearly stated that the average interview time was 4 to 5 minutes and candidates were examined properly suited to the course. That the interviews are capable of being abused and misused is no ground for quashing them from the selection procedure. 

However, the overall guidelines were issued to ensure no such discrepancy arises in future and the college was directed to review its selection procedure with the vice voce examination holding lesser proportion to the written qualifying examination. 


Whatever its genetic origin, if it is a government instrumentality or agency, it is an “authority” in the meaning of Article 12, and this must be decided based on a proper examination of the facts in light of the applicable requirements. The concept of a government instrumentality or agency is not limited to a corporation created by statute, but is equally applicable to a company or society, and in a given case, it would have to be determined, based on a consideration of the relevant factors, whether the company or society is an instrumentality or agency of the government in order to come within the meaning of the expression “authority” in Article 12.

Hence, this case becomes important in defining the value of interview rounds or any authoritative selection system in India as well as in laying down the scope of article 12 through the test of instrumentality or agency of a state within the ambit of “other authorities”.

written by Suhani Sharma intern under legal vidhiya.


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