Rajasthan Electricity Board v/s Mohanlal & Ors

By:- Shabbir Limkhedawala

In the Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASERajasthan Electricity Board v/s Mohanlal & Ors
CITATIONA.I.R 1967 S.C. 25.
DATE OF THE CASE03rd April, 1967
PETITIONERRajasthan Electricity State Board
RESPONDENTMohanlal & Ors
STATUTES/CONSTITUTION INVOLVEDConstitution of India; Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948
IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ARTICLESArticle 12, 14, 16, 19, 46, 226, 227, 298 of Indian Constitution; Section 44 & 78A of Electricity (Supply) Act


The case deals with the scope of the term ‘State’ defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution and the word ‘local authority’. A petition was filed before the High Court of Rajasthan by Mohanlal, regarding his employment towards the Board and the violation of Article 14 & 16 done by the Board while promoting the employees placed provisionally at its disposal.

The High Court Held that Mohanlal is to be similarly treated like other employees and that the order of promotion is to be reconsidered taking note of the claims laid down by Mohanlal. The board then approached to Supreme Court with a special leave petition against the judgement given by the High Court of Rajasthan.

The Board in its defense stated that it could not be embedded within the definition of ‘State’ as defined in Article 12 of the Constitution and, consequently no direction could be issued to the Board by the High Court under Art. 226 or Art. 227 of the Constitution on the basis that the actions of the Board had violated Articles 14 & 16 of the Constitution.

Supreme Court reconsidered the case presented by the board and held that the High Court has done no error while pronouncing the order, and the Board is indeed an agent established under a Statue. Hence, the board clearly fits under the definition of ‘State’ given under Article 12 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court upheld the decision given by the High Court.


The case is a Special leave appeal filed by the State Electricity Board of Rajasthan before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India against the order passed by the High Court of Rajasthan. The Case deals with the scope of the term ‘State’ defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution as well as the word ‘local authority’, which 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 under Section 3(31) of the General Clauses Act, 1897.


Article 12 of the Indian Constitution defines the term ‘State’. Unless the context otherwise requires, the word ‘State’ shall include The Government and Parliament of India, The Government and the Legislature of States, All local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India. The case revolves around the scope of the term “State” defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

Respondent Mohanlal filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court regarding the order of promotion passed by the Electricity Board. He claimed that the Board had acted in contradiction to the provisions of Article 14 & 16 of the Indian Constitution. The High Court of Rajasthan had passed the judgement in favour of the Respondents and had asked the Board to consider the situation of promotion again. Hence, a Special appeal was filed by the Board before the Supreme Court which upheld the decision of the High Court.


Mohanlal, and the other 10 workers were all provisionally placed at the disposal of the Electricity Board of Rajasthan, Jaipur by a notification issued by the Government on 12th February 1958, purporting to exercise its powers under section 78A of Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948. Previously all of them were permanent employees of the State Government holding posts of Foremen in the Electrical and Mechanical Department. A direction was included in the notification that new grades and service conditions were to be framed for those employees whose services were transferred to the Board under its regulation.

Employees were to be given the option of accepting these new grades and service conditions, continuing in their existing grades and service conditions, except in regard to conduct and disciplinary rules, or obtaining relief from Government service by claiming pension or gratuity as may be admissible under the Rajasthan Service Rules on the abolition of posts. The Board did not create any additional grades or service criteria until the present lawsuit arose.

Mohanlal worked under the Board for a period of 2 years and was then deputed by the State Government by its order dated 27th January, 1960, to the Public Works Department of the Government. The Government issued an order to the Secretary of the Board on August 10, 1960, suggesting that Mohanlal and 10 other workers would be considered as on deputation to the Board. The Public Works Department issued an order on November 24, 1962, restoring Mohanlal to his parent department with effect from December 1, 1962, although the deputation time was later extended.

He was returned to the Board from the Public Works Department on July 11, 1963, posting him as a Foreman. While working in the Public Works Department, the Board had promoted the other 10 employees to Assistant Engineers, while he was promoted to Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department. Mohanlal raised a request to the Board as well as the Government for his promotion as Assistant Engineer under the Board, which was turned down.

Mohanlal then filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution. Mohanlal argued that he was entitled to equal treatment with the other 10 workers and that the Board had acted in contravention of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution by not considering him for promotion alongside them. The High Court acknowledged Mohanlal’s argument, overturned the decision promoting the other 10 workers and ordered the Board to reconsider the promotions after considering Mohanlal’s arguments.


  1. Whether The Electricity Board be considered under the definition of “State” under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution?
  2. Whether the Board violated the provisions of Article 14 & 16 of the Indian Constitution as raised by the Respondents?
  3. Whether Respondent Mohanlal was an employee of the Electricity Board?


The appeal was raised by the Electricity Board on two grounds.

  1. The Learned Counsel of the Petitioner (S.T. Desai) submitted the first ground that Mohanlal had never worked for the Board as a permanent employee or in a meaningful position, thus he could not claim to be considered for promotion with the other 10 employees.
    1. The petitioner also mentioned that the notification dated 12-02-1958, stated that the services of Respondents were placed at the Electricity Board’s disposal ‘Provisionally’.
    2. In the petition filed by the Mohanlal before the High Court, it was mentioned that Mohanlal was never a regular employee of the Board, and he claimed that after the Government’s Electrical and Mechanical Department was dissolved, he worked for the Board temporarily before becoming a permanent employee of the State in the Public Works Department.
  2. The second ground raised by the Petitioner was that the Board could not be considered under the definition of “State” as defined in Article 12 of the Constitution, and as a result, the High Court could not give a direction to the Board under Articles 226 or 227 of the Constitution based on the Board’s activities violating Articles 14 and 16.
    1. The Counsel urged that the authorities listed in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, the Government and Parliament of India, as well as the Government and Legislatures of each of the States and local authorities, and the words “other authorities” if read with ejusdem generis, the Board is a separate legal entity with its own existence and was formed largely for the purpose of carrying out commercial operations. Hence, it cannot be covered as State.
    2. In the case of “The University of Madras v. Shantha Bai and Another”, it was held that these terms must be understood ‘ejusdem generis’ with Government or Legislature, and can only refer to authorities performing governmental tasks if they are thus construed. They would not include natural or legal individuals who could not be considered government instruments.

      Madras Act VII of 1923 established the University of Madras as a corporate personality. It is not tasked with carrying out any official tasks; instead, its sole aim is to promote education. Despite the fact that section 44 of the Act requires the local government to contribute financially, the University is allowed to raise its own revenues via fees, endowments, and other sources. It is a government-aided institution, although it is not run by the government.
    3. Also, in the case of “Krishan Gopal Ram Chand Sharma v. Punjab University and Another”, the principle of ‘ejusdem generis’ was approved and applied by the Punjab High Court, followed by the case of “The University of Madras v. Shanta Bai and Another”.
    4. On the basis of these judgements, it was argued that an analysis of the provisions of the Electricity Supply Act will indicate that the Board is an independent entity that cannot be regarded to be acting as an agent of the Executive Government, and therefore that it is not a “State” within the definition of Article 12 of the Constitution.


  1. The Learned Counsel for the respondent referred to the definition, “A public administrative agency or corporation having quasi-governmental powers and authorised to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise,” according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, which can be applied. This dictionary definition of “authority” is clearly broad enough to encompass all bodies established by statute with powers.
  2. In “Ujjam Bai v. State of Uttar Pradesh”, it was held that Art. 12 concludes the definition’s list of authorities by referring to ‘other authorities within the territory of India,’ which cannot be construed as ejusdem generis with either the Government and the Legislatures or local authorities. Also, the nature of the ‘authority’ in this residuary clause is not specified, hence it must encompass any sort of authority established under a statute for the purpose of administering laws enacted by the Parliament or the State, including those charged with making decisions to carry out those laws.
  3. These Court precedents support that the term “other authorities” in Art. 12 refers to all constitutional or statutory authorities to whom legislation confers powers. It makes no difference that some of the capabilities granted are intended to be used for commercial purposes.


  • Article 12 of the Indian Constitution provides the definition of the word ‘State’. Unless the context otherwise requires, the word ‘State’ shall include:
    • The Government and Parliament of India, i.e., executive & Legislature of the Union;
    • The Government and the Legislature of States, i.e., Executive & Legislature of States;
    • All local or other authorities within the territory of India;
    • All local and other authorities under the control of the Government of India.
  • Article 14 of the Indian Constitution provides Equality before the Law & Equal Protection of Law. It states that every person is equal before the law and should get equal protection of the law, no person shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 16 of the Indian Constitution provides Equal Opportunity in aspects of Public Employment. It provides that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. Also, No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be discriminated against in respect to any employment or office under the State.
  • Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides protection of certain Rights regarding Freedom of speech & expression along with some of its exceptions. It provides that every citizen of India shall have a right:
    • To Freedom of Speech & Expression;
    • To assemble peaceably and without arms;
    • To form associations or unions;
    • To move freely throughout the territory of India;
    • To reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;
    • To practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
  • Article 46 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Articles 226 & 227 of the Indian Constitution defines the powers of the High Courts. It states that every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction (except a court formed under a law related to armed forces).
    Also, it empowers the high courts to issue, to any person or authority, including the government (in appropriate cases), directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari or any of them.
  • Section 44 of the Electricity (Supply) Act deals with Restriction on the establishment of new generating stations or major additions or replacement of plant in generating stations. For consent to the replacement of any major unit of plant or works, the Board—gives to the applicant being a licensee an undertaking that within eighteen months from the said date either the station to which the application pertains will become a controlled station in terms of section 34 or the Board will make a declaration to him in terms of section 36; or shows to the applicant that the electricity required by him pursuant to his application could be more economically obtained within a reasonable time from another appropriate source or by other appropriate means.
  • According to Section 76A of the Electricity (Supply) Act, Directions are provided by the State Government.—
    • In the discharge of its functions, the Board shall be guided by such directions on questions of policy as may be given to it by the State Government.
    • If any dispute arises between the Board and the State Government as to whether a question is or is not a question of policy, it shall be referred to the Authority whose decision thereon shall be final. 


The lien of Mohanlal was on a post under the Board, according to a Government order dated January 27, 1960. Even according to the Board, the phrase “reversion” in the order plainly meant that Mohanlal was being transferred back to his parent Department from a Department where he had been on deputation or temporarily.

Also, there is no evidence that any order was made permanently transferring the other employees to the Board after their services were provisionally put at the disposal of the Board by the notification of February 12, 1958, and yet they were recognized as permanent employees of the Board and were promoted to the position of Assistant Engineer from the position of Foremen on that basis.

Hence, it is found that there were no errors committed by the High Court in holding that Mohanalal was in service of the board as others and were being governed by identical rules. It is clear that Mohanlal was entitled to be considered for promotion under the Board on the basis of equality with other employees.

The High Court made an error in applying the principle of ejusdem generis when interpreting the phrase “other authorities” in Art. 12 of the Constitution, according to the Supreme Court, because they failed to recognise the basic principle of interpretation that, in order to invoke the application of the ejusdem generis rule, there must be a distinct genus or -category running through the bodies already named.

The fact that the Board is obligated to engage in some trade or commerce operations under the Electricity Supply Act does not imply that the Board should be excluded from the meaning of the term “State” as used in Article 12. Also, there are clauses in the Electricity Supply Act that clearly establish that the Board’s powers include the ability to issue instructions and that non-compliance is a criminal offence.

The term “other authorities” is broad enough to embrace any authority established by legislation and operating inside India’s territory or under the supervision of the Indian government. There was no need to limit this interpretation in the context of Article 12 of the Constitution when the words “other authorities” are used. Hence, the Board was clearly an authority under the definition of ‘State’ in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.


Since Article 12 makes no mention of the judiciary, a judgement of a properly constituted court cannot be challenged as infringing on fundamental rights. The first two categories described as a state under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution are self-evidently included in the concept of ‘State’. However, the word ‘Local & Other Authorities’ needs to be explained further.

The case above brings out the scope & limit to the use of the word ‘State’ as described under Article 12 of the Constitution. It also expounds on the rule of ‘ejusdem generis’ and its usage with respect to Article 12

The author is in favour of the judgment passed by the Supreme Court & High Court. However, it cannot be accepted that any constitutional or statutory authority vested with powers by law is “other authority” as defined by Art. 12. In its literal definition, “authority” refers to a body that has the capacity to command or make an ultimate decision, or to impose compliance, or to have the legal right to command and be followed. Fundamental rights, within their designated areas, transcend the sovereign authority’s legislative and executive powers.

However, the State’s imposition of justifiable limits may limit some of the most vital fundamental rights. In light of this dual-phase of basic rights, the exact meaning of the words “other authority” in Art. 12 must be decided. According to the author, Authorities that are constitutional or statutory invested with authority by law but not sharing sovereign authority, do not fit under the definition of “State” as stated in Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.


  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/459864/
  2. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/701121/
  3. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/237570/
  4. https://thefactfactor.com/tag/state-electricity-board-rajasthan-v-mohan-lal-air-1967-s-c-1857/

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