N. Masthan Sahib v. Chief Commissioner of Pondicherry(1961): Pondicherry is not comprised within the territory of India as specified under clause (3) of Article 1 of the Constitution.

CaseN. Masthan Sahib v Chief Commissioner, Pondicherry, AIR 1962 SC 797
Court Before Supreme Court of India
BenchN. Rajagopala Ayyangar, PB Gajendragadkar, AK Sarkar, KN Wanchoo, KC Das Gupta.
Author of the judgementN. Rajagopala Ayyangar (Majority), AK Sarkar (Minority).
Advocate for the appellantA. V. Viswanatha Sastri R. K. Garg, M.K. Ramamurthy, S.C. Agrawal and D. P. Singh
Advocate for the respondentC. K. Daphtary, Solicitor-General of India, B. Sen, B. R. L. Iyengar, T. M. Sen, A. S. R. Chari, K. R. Choudhri, R. Mahalingier, R. Gopalakrishnan.

The present case is considered to be a landmark judgement under the constitution of India. The question with regards to whether pondicherry is the part of India was answered in negative by the Honorable Supreme Court of India through a majority opinion. Though complete administrative control over the territory of pondicherry was transferred to Government of India, it was held that this transfer cannot be equated with the transfer of territory. And thus, no appeal could be entertained under article 132 of the Constitution against the decision taken by the authorities of Pondicherry.

Author of the briefLalitha Nandula
KeywordsConstitution of India, Indian Motor Vehicles Act, Commissioner.


  • The Appellants, who are citizens of India, are engaged in the business of road transport. As per a notification in the official Gazette of India of Pondicherry, applications were invited by the State Transport Commission of Pondicherry for the grant of carriage permits that included the routes which were a part of former French establishments.
  • The Appellants and the second respondent made applications for the grant along with 19 people. But before the state transport authority considered these applications, the Government of India published a notification in the Official gazette of Pondicherry extending the provisions of Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 to Pondicherry. The Government could exercise this power under section 4 of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947.
  • The Chief Commissioner of Pondicherry under Section 44 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 constituted a state transport authority in Pondicherry. A notice was issued by which it required persons who applied for stage Carriage permits to furnish particulars which were relevant for the grant of Stage Carriage permit to be considered under Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.
  • The appellant and the inter-alia respondent furnished the required particulars. The particulars were checked and the second appellant was granted the permit. But the claims of the respondent and the others were rejected. The Chief Commissioner was supposed to constitute an appellate authority which was not constituted. But accordingly, the Chief Commissioner allowed appeals of the respondent and set aside the order of the State Transport authority. He directed the permit to be issued in the respondent’s favor.
  • Therefore, two civil appeals and two writ petitions have been filed by the respective appellants seeking the same relief of setting aside the orders passed by the Chief Commissioner of Pondicherry as it tends to violate the Fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.


  • Whether Pondicherry was a part of the territory of India?
  • If not, what was the extent of the jurisdiction exercised by the Union Government and the French Government over the territory?


  • It was pointed out that the court’s powers under Article 32 is for the enforcement of fundamental rights and that its jurisdiction was not limited to the authorities functioning in India, but also extended to giving directions and issuing orders to functioning authorities of the government outside the territory of India.
  • It was contended on terms of the agreement between Government of India and Government of France that Pondicherry was a part of the territory of India.


  • It was contended that the reservations mentioned in the agreement were such that they preclude the court from making a conclusion of a transfer of complete sovereignty which was necessary in order to constitute the area under the territory of India.


(Majority Opinion)

The judges of the majority decision analyzed each issue and came to the conclusion that Pondicherry is not comprised within the territory of India as specified under clause (3) of Article 1 of the Constitution. Article 1(3) says that the territory of India shall comprise of

  1. The territories of the States;

  2. The Union territories specified in the First Schedule;

  3. Such other territories as may be acquired.

By an agreement signed between Government of France and Government of India, the government of India took over the administration of the French establishments in India which included the territory of Pondicherry. A treaty of cession was signed but not ratified according to the French law. Therefore, Government of India had been administering the territory of Pondicherry under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 which is based on the fact that it is outside India and not a part of the territory of India.

On the second issue, it had been stated that the government of India exercised full jurisdiction over Pondicherry in the executive, legislative and judicial matters according to the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947. Also, jurisdiction of Government of India over Pondicherry extends to making all arrangements for its civil administration as well as defense administration. The Government of France had not exercised any executive, legislative or judicial authority since the advent of the agreement. The French Government does not possess any de-facto jurisdiction over Pondicherry which would reduce the extent of the jurisdiction exercised by the Government of India.

(Minority Opinion)

The judges of the minority decision concluded that since India had full jurisdiction over Pondicherry and France had none, it must be held that India acquired sovereignty, therefore Pondicherry is a part of the Indian Territory by acquisition. Also, it is the duty of the court to take judicial notice of the extent of the territory of India (Section 57 of the Evidence Act). So, if a certain territory is claimed to be a part of and within India and that fact is evident, the courts have to take judicial notice of it and there should be no occasion to refer to the Government for any information.


By a majority of three judges, it was held that Pondicherry was not comprised within the territory of India as specified under Article 1(3) of the Constitution of India. The Government did not exercise any jurisdiction over it. Hence, the writ was not maintainable.

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