Case Summary: Sabhajit Tewary vs. Union of India


Title of the case: Sabhajit Tewary v. Union of India
Citation: 1975 AIR 1329
Court: Supreme Court of India
Bench (quorum): A.N. Ray, KuttyilKurien Mathew, Y.V. Chandrachud, Alagiriswami and A.C. Gupta

Appellant: Sabhajit Tewary
Respondent: Union of India & Others

Facts of the case:
The case is based on the background of the “pre – emergency era” reign of Indira Gandhi. This case was decided on that time when Indira Gandhi government was there in power. During this time the government exercised its power arbitrarily and oppressed people. In order to enforce its schemes and plans it curtailed the fundamental rights of the people.

In this case, the petitioner was a junior stenographer in the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research asked for an order declaring two letters to be discriminatory and violative of Article 14. The two letters relate to recommendations of the Finance Sub- Committee of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research with regard to remuneration of stenographers. The petitioners alleged that he should be granted the same number of advance increments as approved and granted to new recruits because the Council is covered within the definition of state under Article-12. Therefore the same benefits would be available without any discrimination by the government.
Issue: – Whether the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) covered under the definition of State given under Article-12 of the Constitution?

Arguments forwarded:-
The petitioner said that the Council is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act. Reliance was placed by counsel for the petitioner on these features of the society. He said that Under Rule, 3, the Prime Minister of India is the ex-officio President of the Society. The Governing Body under Rule 30 consists of inter alia some persons appointed by the Government of India representing the administrative Ministry under which the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is included, and the Ministry of Finance and one or more members appointed by the Government of India.
It was also claimed that the government of India exercised a lot of control in the council as it could terminate the employment of one or all the employees at the same time except the ex officio members of the governing body. Emphasis was also laid by the counsel on Rule 45 which said that the Governing Body shall have the management of all the affairs and funds of the Society. Rule 46 states that the Governing Body shall have power, with the sanction of the Government of India to frame, amend or repeal bye-laws not inconsistent with the rules for the administration and management of the affairs of the Society and in particular to provide for the terms and tenure of appointments, employments, allowances, rules of discipline and other conditions of service of the officers and staff of the Society. Reference was also made to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 and in particular to page 76 where it is stated that all matters relating to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research are under the department of Science and Technology.

The respondents had claimed that in order to enforce Articles 14 and 16 as claimed by the petitioner it had to be proved that the Council would come under the ambit of the definition of Article 12. The counsel for the respondent further stated that the Council was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and therefore was a private body. Unlike bodies like Life Insurance Corporation of India and Oil and Natural Gas Commission it was not a statutory body but a body registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

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Ratio Decidendi:-
The court laid down the principle that a body to be declared a state under Article 12 had to be a statutory body and mere control or financial aid by the central government would not be sufficient to declare the body as state.

Obiter Dicta:-
The court observed that the employees of the bodies who are not statutory bodies and are registered under the Companies Act, 1956 and Societies Registration Act, 1860 cannot enjoy the rights of the government employees under Article 311 of the constitution. The companies were held in these cases to have independent existence of the Government and by the law relating to corporations. These could not be held to be departments of the Government.

The court held that the ‘Council’ does not come under the purview of Article 12 of the constitution, therefore the contentions made by the petitioner that there was violation of Article-14 of the Constitution could not be granted.

Present status of the Judgement:-
The decision given in the case of Sabhajit Tiwari’s was reversed by the SC. The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Pradeep Kumar Biswas Vs. The Institute of Chemical Biology and Ors held that CSIR is covered within the instrumentalities of State under Article-12. The court observed that: CSIR was set up for National purpose to promote educational and economic interest of the people. Also, CSIR is governed by the body which is under the control of the government at the same time members of CSIR have no say in the distribution of its assets which is also under the control of the government.
The court based on the following facts observed that even if the corporation is established by the Statue or incorporated under any law such as Companies act etc it would not take away its character as “State”. If the corporation is acting as instrumentality or agency of the government then in that case it automatically derives the status of authority under Article-12 and hence the Fundamental right can also be enforced in order to provide protection.

Other landmark case:-
Ramana Dayaram Shetty Vs. The International Airport Authority of India :
The Supreme Court in this case laid down the following guidelines to determine whether the authority fall within the preview of state or not:-
1) Whether the State exercise its control over the corporation.
2) Whether the management and the policies of the corporation are controlled by the state.
3) Whether the functions performed by corporation exclusively related to the governmental function.
4) Whether the corporation is deriving its financial assistance from the State.
5) If one of the department of the body is transferred to the government department.
6) Whether the entire share capital of the Corporation is held by the government.
1) In order to enforce the Fundamental Rights it is important that the body must fall within the definition of State as mentioned under Article-12 of the Constitution.
2) The authority must perform the essential state function.
3) There must be pervasive control exercised by the government.
4) The statutory and other bodies are also covered within the definition of state in case the government exercise its pervasive control and also manage the financial resources of the corporation.
5) In order to enforce the Fundamental Rights the Judiciary is trying to widen the scope of the definition of State in order to provide justice to the large number of people whose rights have been violated.

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