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Article 14 – Right to Equality

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  • Last Updated : 28 Mar, 2022

The Right to equality is guaranteed under Article 14-18 to every citizen of India. Article 14 lays down the general principle of equality. It prohibits unreasonable discrimination between individuals. Article 15-18 lays down the specific applications of equality. Article 14 states that State shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of laws. The main objective is to secure to all persons the equality of status and opportunity as referred to in the Preamble.

Equality before law

It predicts the absence of any special advantage by reason of birth, religion, or the like in favor of any individual. Amid equals, the law should be equal and should give equality in a sense of a balanced way. In another way like must be treated alike. Equality before the law is an aspect of Dickey’s Rule of Law in England. Supreme Court in Ashutosh Gupta vs. the State of Rajasthan, 2002 held doctrine of equality before the law is the consequence of the Rule of Law. Rule of Law requires that no person shall be subject to grating and discriminatory treatment. Supremacy of law and absence of arbitrary power is the main power of Rule of law which constitutes equality before the law.

Equal protection of the law

It means that likewise circumstanced people shall be treated alike both in the right conferred and duty imposed to them means the person should be treated equally in respect of their rights and duty. In other words, the same laws shall apply to all who are in similar circumstances. Supreme Court in State of W.B. v. Anwar Ali, AIR 1952 held that equal protection of laws means all people’s likewise conditions should be treated alike both in rights conferred and duty imposed. Article 14 does not hypothesize equal treatment of all persons without dissimilarity. This concept is similar to one embodied in the 14th amendment of the American Constitution. This concept is regarded as a positive concept because it expects positive action from the state.

Reasonable Classification of Right to Equality

Equality before the law and equal protection of laws means that equality is not a complete concept. It is not wise to treat un-equals be equally and equals should not be treated unequally in any manner. In this way, it is not merely possible to say that Article 14 mandates that all laws should be similarly applicable to every person. It is because all persons are not equal by position, nature, or any other circumstances which do not make them equal, and therefore, the mechanical application of equality will be not justified. Article 14 does not supplement equal treatment of every citizen without making any difference. It allows reasonable classification of the need for legislative and administrative decisions. Supreme Court in Virendra Krishna Mishra v. Union of India, held that if there is valid and reasonable classification then the right to equality cannot be denied.

Supreme Court in State v. Shri Ambika mills held that reasonable classification includes every person who is similar with respect to the purpose of the law. The classification should be based upon intelligible differentia which differentiates between which are grouped and which are not from others. This differential must have a rational nexus with the purpose of the law.

Supreme Court in E.P.Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, has expanded the phrase equality before the law into two principles Rule of Law and Principle of Natural Justice, and also Laid down a new concept of Equality i.e. equality is a dynamic concept more than static with many aspects and dimensions, and it cannot crumble or confined, etc within its doctrinaire limits.

Right to equality & Natural justice

Rules of Natural Justice are a concept of common law and represent higher principles. It is firmly found in article 14 of the constitution. The violation of Natural justice results in partiality done by authority therefore violation of Natural Justice is a violation of equality of Article 14.

The principle of Natural Justice is an expression used for describing the criteria of fairness of decision making, especially by administrative authorities. These principles are integrated into our system of administration of Justice and the courts are required to follow them through the formal laws of procedures and evidence. Where a formal law of procedure or evidence is not applicable as in the case of tribunals and administrative authorities, rules of natural justice serve as minimum norms of procedural fairness.

However, natural justice is not the uncontrollable car, no hidden bunker, nor a cure for all judicial contexts. If fairness is shown by the decision-maker to the man proceeded against him, the form, the features, and the fundamentals of such essential being conditioned by the facts of each situation, no breach of natural justice can be complained of. The court has to make sure that natural justice does not become a fetter against effective administrative action. There must be natural justice in rule of law, thus the right to equality must be merely governed by natural justice.

There are many such Rights which is the result of the principle of the Right to Equality. They are as such:

Equal Pay for Equal Work 

Every man or woman of any class, religion, caste, etc must be given an equal amount of salary for their equal work. Discrimination made on such a thing is a violation of articles 14 &16. In Randhir Singh v. UOI AIR 1982, SC held that it’s the inherent right constituted in the Constitution, even though it is not expressed in the constitution. And every class of persons must be given an equal salary for their equal work.

The Right to Education is also the Right to equality: 

For equality at the societal level, every person has the right to get educated and there must be no discrimination against such right. It was widely enlightened in a few cases like Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib, Court interfere in admission made by college authority arbitrarily and in an unreasonable manner. And court secures the right to education of students. Even the constitution itself allows the reservation for the betterment of backward, SC, and ST classes for maintaining equality in society.

Thus, by way of amendment and by judiciary interpretation, the Right to Equality becomes much wider and plays the utmost vital role in securing the fundamental rights of citizens.

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