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Article 14: Right to Equality

Article 14:

Equality before law: The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

So, this article deals with mainly the right to equality and the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Rule of Law:

Jurist A.V. Dicey in the book The Constitution of England developed the concept of the Rule of Law. According to it if any person does any act which is not legally justified then all person who committed that act should be treated similarly or equally in the eye of law. According to the Rule of Law, any particular person or the Government is not supreme instead that there is always supremacy of law. So whether it is government or the people who are governed by the government, there will be always equal treatment of them in the eye of law.

We see the concept of the Rule of Law mainly at two places in the Constitution of India i.e. in the preamble 'Equality of status and of opportunity' and another one is in article 14.

Article 14 is the first Fundamental Right that talks about Equality. According to it, we should prohibit unequal treatment and also demand laws that can provide us equal treatment. So this article 14 talks about two things i.e.
  1. Equality before Law

    • It Prohibits Unequal Treatment.
    • Equality before the law means that no one is above the law of the land means the law does not discriminate based on birth, position, gender or other personal attributes, thus It promotes Equality.
    • It is an English Law concept.
    • Also known as Rule of Law.
    • In this concept, the law is used in the generic sense.

Equal Protection of Laws

  • It demands equal treatment

  • Equal protection of law means that law provides equal opportunities to all those who are in similar circumstances or situations means It promotes Equity.

  • It is an American concept which is based on equal people will get equal treatment.

  • According to it, the law doesn't need to apply universally to everyone. Every law that will apply to each people of the same kind is not possible.

  • In this concept, the law used in specific terms. It said that if two people are not equal or who are in an unequal situation then the law applicable to them should be different.

This concept of Equal protection of Laws said that for better public welfare classification is necessary and for that different factors should be recognized. To save classification from undue influence we formulate a test which was developed in the case of State of Bombay V. F.N. Balsara AIR 1951 SC 328.

This case laid a test that involves two conditions to save classification from an undue advantage.
  1. Intelligible Differentia:

    It means there should be an intelligent reason for the classification of groups when we are creating groups for equal protection of laws.
  2. Rational Nexus:

    It means there should be a rational or reasonable relation between the purpose of classification of the group and the result which we want to achieve through classification.

But this test or doctrine become old from the year 1970. The Supreme Court founds that this doctrine is consists of a negative and restrictive approach. So in the case of E.P. Royappa v/s State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1974, SC 555 new doctrine was laid with the reason that Equality is a dynamic concept and it cannot be confined to traditional limits. With time being society and the meaning of public welfare change.

This new doctrine was is very positive, dynamic, and activist in nature. In this case, they include the word reasonableness in the term equality. They said Equality before Law will include principles of natural justice with rule of law i.e. Equality before Law = Principles of natural justice + Rule of Law.

This view was adopted in the case of Maneka Gandhi V. UOI AIR 1978 SC 597, that the goal of article 14 is that it can strikeout arbitrariness from state's action and by striking out arbitrariness article 14 ensures fairness and equality among the people of India. Arbitrariness and equality are sworn enemies, so we can't provide justice by adding reasonableness with equality.

So, old doctrine (2 test) + reasonableness = new doctrine.

Written by: Jagpravesh Singh

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