Spread the love

This article is written by Mishu Jain of 2nd semester of Manipal University Jaipur School of Law, an intern under legal Vidhiya


As enshrined in the preamble, Indian constitution aims to secure to all its citizens EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all. The main goal was to create a homogeneous society from one that was divided along religious, caste, and economic lines.

The Constitution prohibits the state from discriminating in any way and ensures equality for all citizens. It guarantees that the state will treat every citizen equally, allows everyone to have the equality of status and opportunities, and expressly states that discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, color, or caste is prohibited. Article 14 of Indian constitution guarantees the right to equality. This is one among the fundamental rights. It guarantees everyone’s right to equal protection under the law and equality before the law. It is the right of non-citizens as well as Indian citizens. The right of equality conferred by Article 14 is not an absolute right

Articles 14 through 18 of the Indian Constitution protect the right to equality.”One of the magnificent cornerstones of Indian democracy is equality.” The “Right to Equality” is a general idea that defines itself; hence it doesn’t need any explanation.


Equality, Indian Constitution, Preamble, Discrimination, Protection, Fundamental Rights, Homogeneous, Citizens.


Every person has the right to be treated equally, which means that laws, policies, and programs shouldn’t be discriminatory, and that public authorities shouldn’t apply or enforce laws, policies, and programs in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. Equality affirms that all human beings are born free and equal. It presupposes that every individual has the same rights and deserves the same level of respect. The American Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” and that they are entitled “to assume the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.” The French proclamation states, “Men are free and equal in respect of their rights from birth and always will be.” The Constitution included this privilege as a Fundamental privilege in order to guarantee it for all time and to maintain it forever.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution addresses equality before the law and equal protection under it. Equality before the law and equal protection under the Indian constitution are guaranteed to all people under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This privilege is both foreigners and Indian citizens can access it.

Equal rights are both inherent and fundamental human rights. Additionally, the Indian Constitution’s III part mentions the fundamental right to equality. The Indian constitution places a high value on equality, thus treating equals unfairly or not treating them equally will violate several major constitutional provisions. These are what Dr. B. R. Ambedkar called the most citizen-friendly provisions of the constitution. These are considered to be a crucial component of the constitution since they guard the nation’s citizens’ rights and liberties against the government’s abuse or incursion of the authority granted to it in a democracy. These are the state’s and the people’s negative duties.

In order to give the so-called disadvantaged groups the opportunity to catch up to the so-called favored ones, the Constitution established the notion of reservation. This type of positive discrimination is permitted by the Indian Constitution in order to promote equality of status and opportunity inside the community. Reservation was never supposed to be a passing fad by the founding fathers. The impoverished were to have their reservations maintained until they achieved social and economic stability. Reservations were incorporated into the system with the intention of assisting the underprivileged classes in gaining a stronger footing and receiving equal benefits from an independent and free nation.



Article 14 declares that “no person within the territory of India shall be denied equality before the law or equal protection of the laws.”

Equal protection under the law and equality before the law are two concepts that do not signify the same thing in exactitude. The former is derogatory in nature, suggesting that no group of people or individual is given preferential treatment. The content of equal protection under the law is positive. It suggests treating everyone equally under all conditions.

The phrase “Equality before Law” has its roots in British thought. Nevertheless, the American Constitution is where the idea of “Equal Protection of Laws” originated.

Equality before Law:

There are no special privileges granted to any individual. All people are subject to the ordinary law of the land, which is administered by ordinary law courts. The law applies to everyone equally, regardless of wealth, status, or affiliation.

This is comparable to the Dicean idea of the Rule of Law in Britain’s second corollary. This is not an absolute rule, though, as there are a number of exceptions. For example, foreign diplomats are exempt from the nation’s legal system; the President of India and State governors are also granted immunity under Article 361; public officials and judges are also afforded some protection; and certain special groups and interests, such as trade unions, have been granted special privileges by the law[1].

Equal Protection of Law:

 The Equitable treatment under the same conditions, with respect to the rights granted and obligations imposed by the laws. The same laws should be applied similarly to everyone in a similar situation. The same should be handled equally without distinction.

There is no requirement that all people be treated equally and without distinction under the Equal Protection of the Laws. Its premise is that all people in comparable circumstances should be treated equally and without prejudice under the same rules. It means treating everyone equally under all conditions. It suggests that the law should be applied equally to all people and that people of similar backgrounds should be treated equally regardless of their income, status in society, race, or political influence. As a result, the rule is that similar things should be handled similarly rather than dissimilar things.

Test of Reasonable Classification

Article 14 prohibits class legislation, but it does not prohibit the reasonable classification of individuals, things, and transactions in a legitimate manner in order to achieve certain goals.

However, categorization shouldn’t be “arbitrary, artificial, or evasive.” Legislative classifications must be fair in order to be recognized. Two requirements must be met in order to pass the reasonable categorization test, specifically:

1. The classification needs to be based on an intelligible differentia that sets apart the items or people included in the group from those excluded from it.

2. The differentia must make coherence in regard to the goal that the relevant statute aims to accomplish.


The British jurist “A.V. Dicey” introduced the idea of “RULE OF LAW,” which includes the notion of “Equality before Law.” His idea consists of the following three components:

1) Lack of arbitrary power, meaning that punishment for a man is limited to breaking the law.

2) Equality before the law, or the equal subjugation of all citizens—wealthy or poor, social class or not, official or not—to the ordinary law of the state, as enforced by the courts of ordinary law.

3) The individual’s priority rights, or the idea that the individual’s rights as established and upheld by the legal system come before the Constitution, rather than the other way around.

The Indian system allows for the first and second elements, but not the third. Within the Indian legal system, individual rights originate from the Constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled that one of the constitution’s “Basic Features” is the “Rule of Law” as it is expressed in Article 14. Therefore, not even an amendment can destroy it.


Prohibition of discrimination based on sex, religion, caste, race, or place of birth.

Article 15 (1) – “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”[2].

In the 1951 case of  Shaikh Hussein Shaik Mohamed vs. Unknown[3], it was decided that Section 27(2A) of The Bombay Police Act violated Article 15(1) and was therefore unconstitutional since it discriminated against people who were born in Greater Bombay and those who were not.

Article 15(2) states: No citizen will be subject to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition with regard to— on the sole basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or any combination of these

(a) Access to shops, open-air dining establishments, lodging facilities, and public entertainment venues; or (b) usage of roads, bathing Ghats, wells, tanks, and public resort areas that are either entirely or partially funded by state funds or intended for public use.

Article 15 (3) – Despite the wide prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any combination of these under Article 15(1), Article 15(3) of the Indian Constitution permits the State to create particular provisions for women and children.

It suggests that the Parliament may enact unique legislation. The anti-discrimination rule is not applicable to this article. The women’s and children’s rights were intended to be safeguarded by the writers of the constitution because these groups were seen as relatively weaker members of society and because their advancement was deemed to require such provisions. The clause’s meaning is absolute and grants the State the authority to enact any unique laws and procedures to safeguard their interests. These particular clauses are unrestricted in any way, and they don’t even have to be actions that are strictly advantageous.

In the case of Rajesh Kumar gupta vs. state of U.P.[4], The court maintained the practice of allocating up to 50% of the available spots for women to teach in primary schools.

Article 15(4) – The Indian Constitution grants the State the authority to provide special arrangements for the advancement of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as well as persons from socially and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

This clause supersedes any possible conflict between the government’s affirmative action initiatives, which aim to alleviate historical socioeconomic and educational disadvantages, and the basic right against discrimination. It doesn’t require the State to do anything in particular in order to be fulfilled. This section is merely facilitating. This assurance is exclusively accessible to Indian citizens.

In case of jagwant kaur vs. state of Maharashtra[5], It was believed that building a colony exclusively for Harijans would violate Article 15(1). Thus, in order to assist citizens who are socially and educationally disadvantaged without going against other regulations, clause (4) under Article 15 was added.

Article 15(5) – allows the State to reserve seats in educational institutions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as well as socially and educationally disadvantaged sections.

In order to advance equality of opportunity and guarantee that these disadvantaged groups in society have access to education, this clause was added. It does not, however, apply to minority-run educational institutions, which are guaranteed by the constitution the freedom to create and run any kind of school they choose.


Equal opportunity in issues of public employment is guaranteed by Article 16. According to the article, all individuals shall have equal access to opportunities in areas pertaining to employment or appointment to any state-run office. In areas pertaining to public employment, the article also prohibits discrimination solely on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth, or any combination of these.

Under Article 16, there are five instances in which discrimination is not permitted.

  • The Parliament may establish residency requirements for specific state appointments.
  • If backward classes are underrepresented in state services, the state may set aside some appointments for them.
  • Religious adherents may be granted exclusive access to positions in religious organizations worried.
  • Positions in the state sector may be held exclusively for members of the designated castes and tribes.
  • Lastly, discrimination in state employment is prohibited under Art. 16 on the reasons listed in the article itself. It does not prohibit receiving preferential treatment based on other factors, such kindness or efficiency.


“Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden,” states Article 17 of the Constitution. The Abolition of the Untouchability Act of 1955 strengthens the stance even more. The practice of untouchability in any form is legally prohibited, despite the fact that the term is not defined in the Act of 1955 or the Constitution.

It is illegal to deny someone entry to a public institution—such as a school or hospital—on the basis that they are untouchable. This article mostly criticizes private behavior rather than government behavior. It is unlikely that the State would encourage or endorse untouchability.

The Protection of Civil Rights Act, which was renamed the Untouchability Offenses Act of 1955 in 1976, established penalties for barring an individual from accessing a place of worship or drawing water from a well or tank. This article functions alone, and when combined with Article 39(a) (ii), it makes it evident that the practice of untouchability has been outlawed.


“(1) The State may not bestow any title that isn’t a military or academic honor.

(2) No Indian national may take up a title from a foreign state.

(3) No non-Indian national may take a title from a foreign state without the President’s approval while holding a position of profit or trust in the State.

 (4)No person holding any office of profit or trust under the State shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.”[6]

The Supreme Court, in the case of Balaji Raghavan v. UOI[7], maintained the legitimacy of civilian medals but censured the government for not using caution when granting them. It was decided that anyone who was using their national honors as titles should have forfeited them since they were not intended for that purpose.


We have had a thorough discussion of the articles that fall within the right to equality. One of the great pillars of Indian democracy is thought to be the right to equality. It establishes the framework for carrying out every other article of the Constitution.

The Indian Constitution grants equal status and opportunities to foreigners and protects all of the rights of citizens. Under the law, everyone is treated equally and without distinction. Article 14 guarantees equal rights to all residents of the Indian subcontinent. As a fundamental component of the Indian Constitution, the right to equality is crucial to establishing social and economic fairness in a society where the advancement of particular social strata is seen as essential to the nation’s prosperity.

One of the most significant provisions of the Indian constitution is the right to equality, which empowers all citizens of India. The next generation must fight for their rights and transform our emerging nation into a developed one. This clause, which guarantees everyone’s equality before the law and equal protection under it, strengthens the nation’s fraternity.

Equality is more than just categorizing people or putting a few of them in a category and then forgetting about them. Examining whether governmental activity is free from arbitrariness is the essence of equality. It goes beyond just the classification test.


  1. M P Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, p. 908 (8th Ed.)

[2] Indian constitution, article 15, cl1.

[3]  Shaikh Hussein Shaik Mohamed vs. Unknown, (1951)53BOMLR57.

[4] Rajesh Kumar gupta vs. state of U.P., 2005 (5) SCC 172.

[5] Jagwant kaur vs. state of Maharashtra, (1952) 54 BOMLR678.


[7]  Balaji Raghavan vs. union of India, 1996 SCC (1) 361.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *