Article 14 – Right to Equality

“Priya and Arjun were classmates in school. But at the time of getting admission in college, Priya was not admitted and the reason for the same was that she was a female. Priya and Arjun were confused and went to Mr. Lexi to know more about the right to equality.
Mr. Lexi explained that Priya should not be denied admission because the Indian Constitution guarantees right to equality. This means that everyone is equal before law.”

Introduction

Does the Indian Constitution provide for Right to equality?

Yes, Article 14 of the Constitution talks about equality before law.

What is the nature of Article 14?

Under Article 14 right to equality is a fundamental right.

What does Article 14 provide for?

It guarantees to every person the right to equality before law and equal protection of laws.

Who is entitled the right to equality under Article 14?

Article 14 is applicable to citizens as well as non-citizens.

What does the term ‘person’ mean for the purpose of right to equality?

It includes-
●Individuals,
●Companies,
●Statutory corporations,
●Registered societies,
●Any other type of legal person.

CONTENTS OF ARTICLE 14

What are the components of Article 14?

The Article 14 provides for 2 things-
●Equality before law, and
●Equal protection of laws.

What is meant by the term ‘equality before law’?

●Every person is treated equally before the court of law.
●No special privilege is given to any individual. If two individuals have committed the same type of offense, they would be given equal punishment
for the same.
●No person is above the law. A master and the servant are equal in the eyes of law.
●It is a negative concept.

What is meant by the term ‘equal protection of laws’?

●The application of the laws should be similar for those who are similarly situated.
●Under equal circumstances, equal treatment should be done even in the case of giving privileges or imposing liabilities.
●Every person is guaranteed equal treatement without any discrimination.
●It is a positive concept.

Does the right to equality have some exceptions?

Yes, there are a few exceptions to the right to equality:-
●No criminal proceedings can be initiated against the President or the Governor before any court, during the term of office.
●An MLA or an MP is not liable for any vote given by him or any statement given by him.
●Diplomatic immunity is enjoyed by the United Nations and its agencies. It means that no civil and criminal liability can be brought against the ambassadors and diplomatic persons.

RULE OF LAW

What is meant by the term ‘rule of law’?

This concept has been taken from MagnaCarta which says that no man is above law and everyone is equal before the eyes of law.

What are the essentials of the rule of law?

●There should be no arbitrary power with the governing body.
●A limit should be set for the discretion conferred to the executive authorities.

DOCTRINE OF REASONABLE CLASSIFICATION

What is meant by the Doctrine of reasonable classification?

Equal protection of laws under Article 14 in a way does not mean that all the laws have to be general in nature. Different classes of people require different treatments.
Therefore, such classification has to be reasonable in nature.

What are the essentials of a reasonable classification?

●The classification must not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive in nature.
●The classification must be based on real and substantive reasons.

What is the test of reasonable classification?

●The classification must be done on the basis of intelligible differentia.
●The intelligible differentia must be in nexus with the object of the act.

What does intelligible differentia mean?

Individuals are categorized into different groups on different basis so that they can get the required benefits

When will an act be termed as arbitrary?

When an act does not fulfill the conditions of the test of reasonable classification, is termed as arbitrary in nature.

In A Nutshell

●Right to equality is a fundamental right given under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
●It is applicable to both citizens and non-citizens and to individuals, corporations and other legal persons.
●Equality before law and equal protection of laws are two separate terms and they have different meanings. Equality before law means that there shall be no discrimination on any ground and everyone is equal before the eyes of law. But equal protection of laws says that the laws cannot be general in nature, rather they have to be made to adhere to the needs of different groups of persons.
●There are certain exceptions to the right to equality i.e, The President and Governor are immune from criminal liability and diplomats also enjoy immunity against civil and criminal liabilities.
●Rule of law means that everyone is equal before the law and there should not be any discrimination on any ground.
●Reasonable classification is an important aspect of Article 14. On the basis of intelligible differentia categories can be made and the classification should be in nexus with the object of the act. This is to avoid arbitrariness.

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