A very important tool available for citizens to maintain rule of law is the part III of the Indian Constitution which contain Article 12 to 35, deals with the ‘Fundamental rights’. It is also known as magna carta of the Indian Constitution as magna carta by King John of England is the first charter of rights which mentions the fundamental rights of citizens.
The first fundamental right is ‘Right to Equality’, which ensures equal treatment to everyone and prohibits discrimination. Article 14 to 18 provides everyone with right to equality. In this blog, we are going to discuss Article 14 in depth. Article 14 is right to equality, talks about equal treatment to everyone.
Our Constitution has been in force since 1950, for over 73 years and everyone is entitled to these basic rights, without discrimination.
But do you think all people enjoy these rights?
‘A woman getting low wage for the same work’, ‘a family not getting rental unit due to their caste’, ‘an employer refusing to interview a poor candidate’ and ‘a quadragenarian being ashamed of going back to school to complete the degree’ Don’t we evidence these situations even after 75 years of independence?
Discrimination is practiced on the basis of religion, caste, race, sex, age and place of birth. Let’s know what rights Article 14 provide against this discriminations.
Article 14 states that “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” This is not an absolute right but this is available to citizens of India as well as foreigners except enemies.
As you can notice there are 2 concepts in this Article one is ” equality before law” and second is ” equal protection of law”.
Equality before law
Every person is equal before law and is entitled to equal benefit of law without discrimination. Our lady justice is blindfolded, this symbolize that everyone is treated equally in the liabilities imposed by law. No minister, no Prime Minister, no aristocrat is above law, law is above everyone.
It is an English idea that ensures that no one has special privileges in their favor, that everyone is equally subject to the general law of the land, and that no one, regardless of rank or circumstance, is above the law. This is analogous to the Dicean idea of the Rule of Law in Britain’s second corollary. However, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule. For instance, foreign diplomats are exempt from the country’s legal proceedings, and the Indian President and state governors are also granted immunity under Article 361. Public officials and judges also have some protection, as do some special interests and groups.
Equal protection of law
It is positive in nature and is based on the American Constitution. The 14th Amendment to the American Constitution contains a similar promise of equal protection of the laws. It does not imply that all people should be subject to the same laws in exactly the same ways or that all laws in the nation must be applied equally regardless of local conditions.
The concept of equal protection under the law does not entail treating everyone equally and without distinction. It advocates applying the same laws to everyone who is in a similar situation, equally and without bias. It means receiving the same treatment under comparable circumstances.
This is an American concept, it is mentioned in the section 1 of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, which states that, “everyone is subject to the same laws that apply to everyone in the same situation”.
This concept of equal protection of law basically implies that equals are treated equally and unequals are treated unequally. Article 14 does not mean that same laws should be applicable to everyone. We cannot treat the Prime minister and an ordinary man equally, special protection force can’t be provided to everyone.
1) Under Article 361- President and Governor of India are not answerable to any court in order to exercise their duties.
2) Police and judges also have some special protections.
3) Quotas are given to socially and economically backward classes as special provisions to certain groups of people are not prohibited under law.
4) Members of Parliament are not liable to any court proceedings for any of his statements in the parliament. Same for the members of legislature in the legislature of the state government.
5) Foreign diplomats are free from any court proceedings.
Doctrine of Reasonable Classification
There is a doctrine of reasonable classification on which Art. 14 is based upon. While class legislation is prohibited under Article 14, the legislature is nonetheless permitted to classify people, things, and transactions in a fair manner in order to further certain goals. However, categorization cannot be “arbitrary, artificial, or evasive”. It must always be based on a distinction that is both just and reasonable in respect to the goal that the legislation is trying to accomplish. The landmark judgment of this doctrine is “State of Bombay v. FN Balsara” (1951). Article 14 is not an absolute right. The reasonable classification is an exception to it. The classification must be reasonable, that cannot be arbitrary.
In Kedar Nath v. State of West Bengal, the Court decision was about the presumption that the classification is reasonable can be assumed on the basis that the Legislature understands the necessity of the public and so can take the rational decision. The provisions of Fundamental Rights relating to right to Equivalence and the reasonable classifications does not insist that such type of classification must be perfect or complete on the basis of scientific or logical reasons.
1) Intelligible differentia –
It should be an intelligible difference which is capable of being understood. For example you can not classify people on the basis of their hair colour.
2) Rational Relation –
This should be a nexus between the classification and the objective that you want to achieve. The best example of this is the quota provided to economically and socially backward classes to increase their social and education status. Basically this two classifications from a test to clarify if a classification is reasonable or not.
The Supreme Court has established a new definition of equality in the case of E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, departing from the old concept of equality that was founded on reasonable categorisation. “Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions, and it cannot be ‘cribbed, cabined, and confined’ within traditional and doctrinaire limits,” said Bhagwati J., who delivered the verdict on behalf of himself, Chandrachud, and Krishna Iyer, JJ.
In the case of Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, the Supreme Court describes the jurisprudence of equality before the law. The test to determine whether conducts of state are constitutionally valid or not. The very famous “classification test” has been given in this case only. Here the High Court held that a Government can make a commission to enquire a case when it is necessary to do so. Here the main purpose of the government is to make any commitment to help matters of public importance.
Remedies in case of breach of Article 14
1)Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, writ petitions can be filled.
2)Also Public Interest Litigations (PILs) or a regular suit can be filled.
3) Other available legal mechanisms can also be exercised.
Finally, I would want to add that because our nation is democratic, each and every citizen has been granted a set of fundamental rights, and that it is important to ensure that these rights are not violated by anyone, even the government.
Our constitution’s guarantee of equality is not actually being fully upheld, despite the fact that our judicial system has advanced numerous legislative requirements relating to it. As hard as our judiciary and the other two state organs fight to uphold equality among all of our citizens, it will be incredibly challenging to eliminate inequity as long as people are unaware of their rights.