October 20, 2021

Article 14 of the Constitution of India and Important Case Laws

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Article 14 of Constitution of India

“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”

Article 14 of Constitution of India states that every citizen of India is equal in the eyes of law, it should not afford unequal treatment the discrimination on post, casts, religion, place of birth, sex is strictly prohibited. It is also a first fundamental right, which talks about equality which prohibit unequal treatment and demand for those laws which afford equal treatment.

Concept of Rule of law

Rule of law basically means if anyone in the country, either normal citizen of India or any government official, president, prime minister, everyone is treated equally, if any person in the whole country does any act which is legally not justified, he/she may be treated similarly in the eyes of law, according to rule of law no one is supreme from anyone, the concept of rule of law is develop by the “A V Dicey” in their book ‘The constitution of England’.

Article 14 (1) Equality Before Law

Equality before law is an English law concept, it is a negative approach and in equality before law, it should not afford unequal treatment, it is used in very generic form in equality before law.

Equality before law states the important principle that all the independent beings must be treated equally by the law. It also states that all are subject to the same laws of justice. The law ensures that no person or group of individuals is privileged or discriminated in front of the law.[1]

 Exceptions to Equality Before Law

The president, governor of state enjoys following things

  • The president is not answerable for the activities and duties done in his office.
  • No criminal proceedings instituted in court during his office term.
  • No person is entitled to arrest or imprisonment of president or governor during his office term.
  • An act done by his personal capacity, no civil proceeding shall be initiated during the office term of the president and governor.
  • If any person publishes any true report of parliament proceeding in newspaper or article, he/she may not liable for any criminal or civil proceeding.
  • If any member of parliament said anything which dislike by other person in the parliament or vote which is dislike other person in this type of case no one can initiate civil or criminal proceeding against the member of parliament.
  • If any member of legislature of state said anything which dislike by other person in the legislature of any committee or vote which is dislike other person in this type of case no one can initiate civil or criminal proceeding against the member of legislature of state

Article 14 (2) Equal Protection of Laws

It is an American concept and a positive approach, it says it is not compulsory that laws have universal application, basically it says all laws to every person cannot apply in a same proportion, it also says that we have to make and demand these types of laws which helps in affording of equal treatment in the country, it says for better public welfare classification is must, for classification reorganisation of different factor existing in our country is must.

Equal protection of law states that law have to provide equal opportunities to those who are in similar situations. Every person who loves in the territory of India has the right before law. 

This concept is taken from the American Constitution. It could be said to be a positive concept because it depicts equality in equal circumstances.

Example:-

Suppose in a house there are two children’s, first one is of 5 years old and second one is 10 years old and we think to treat both the children equally like their proper education, proper health facility etc. It does not mean the expenses of both the children are same because of their age group, the older children tuition fees and other expenses are lack somewhere from other. So, for better treatment it is essential to differentiate and classify both the children’s need, this is basically a equal protection of law which says two persons which are not equal, who are in unequal situation, the laws which are applicable of unequal people laws also may differ for both the people on the basic unequal situation.

For preventing this classification from undue influence we have formulated a test in State of Bombay v. F.N.Balsara[2]

For this we have two conditions first is “Intelligible Differentia” and second one is “Rational Nexus

  1. Intelligible differentia- if you are creating two groups, it is essential to assign reason why you are differentiating two different groups, means there has been an intelligent reason that why you are differentiating those two groups in different group.
  2. Rational nexus- it says whatever your purpose is for differentiating two groups from each other and whatever result you want to achieve from differentiating those two groups, there will be a nexus between them in other words there is a rational relationship between classification and desired end.

All that we are discussing above are before 1970, in 1970 supreme court will found that old doctrine very negative and restrictive approach. Then in the case E.P.  Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu[3] in this case supreme court will formulate a new doctrine with a reason that “Quality is a dynamic concept, it cannot be cribbed, cabined or confined with traditional limits” this new doctrine is a very dynamic and activist in nature, they say in this case equality before law does not mean only rule of law, new doctrine expended the old doctrine and says equality before law will include the principle of natural justice and rule of law both.

This view will be adopted in Menka Gandhi v. Union of India[4]in this case held that the main motive of Article 14 will bw fairness and equality state action arbitrariness will be strike out, from doing that Article 14 will ensures ‘fairness and equality’ i.e. reasonableness is an essential element of equality on non-arbitrariness.[5]

So basically, new doctrine is reasonableness + 2 tests from old doctrine.

There will be clear approach from the new to the old, Article 14 demand is reasonableness in state action the classification are most important methods meeting that demand, the new approach to Article 14 was propounded state action was found reasonableness therefore invalid under Article 14.

Article 14 guarantee every person including non-citizen and transgender equal protection of   the law to every person of the India, Article 14 strikes at arbitrates in the state action ensure equality and fairness of treatment, the principle of reasonableness, which legally as well as philosophically is an essential element of equality or non-arbitrariness, Article 14 like brooding omnipresence

Part –III of the Indian Constitution which contains the information about fundamental rights From Article 12 to 32 along with Directive Principle of State Policy of Part-IV are also termed as the Cornerstone or one can say the foundation of the Constitution of India.

No one can use the fundamental rights illegally nor they can destroy the fundamental right of the citizens of India. As we all are very much familiar with the fact that India is a democratic country, the rights which are given to each and every citizen are the most basic requirement in these days and are known as fundamental rights.

No one in India can touch a very fabric of the Constitution of India means no one can change or claim the basic structure of the Constitution of India. Nobody can pass such a law which may hit or destroy the basic structure of the Constitution of India.  we all know about the absolute power or you can say it cannot be taken away[6].

Neither anyone (in India) can touch a very Fabric of the Constitution of India means the basic structure of the Constitution of India nor can pass such a law which may hit or violate the basic structure of the Constitution of India.[1] So Article 14 has absolute power or you can say it cannot be taken away because it has been described as a part of basic structure of the Constitution of India.

Article 32 is a Heart and Soul of the Constitution of India’’ because this Article provides guarantee against the fundamental right that no one can violate, destroy the fundamental right of the citizen of India, No one can suspend this Article except by the president during the time of national emergency and this exception is provided in the Constitution of India under Article 32 clause (4).

Case Laws dealing with Article 14 of Constitution of India                                         

  • For instance when we look at the case of Air India vs Nargesh Meerza, the rule for termination of the Indian Airlines mentioned that an Air Hostess had to retire from their services in following cases:
  • When she turns 35
  • When she get married within 4 years of her service
  • When she gets pregnant

The court went against this rule. The court stated that terminating the services of an air hostess on the grounds of pregnancy amounted to discrimination as it was an unreasonable ground for termination. As mentioned in the regulation of Air India, the air hostess could marry therefore the grounds of pregnancy was not reasonable. Therefore, it was said that this particular rule violated Article 14. Thus such termination wouldn’t be considered valid.

  • If we look at the case of Harsh Mander v UOI[7], we can see that the judgement brought a change in matter of begging. Earlier due to Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 different form of begging were criminalized. But on the ground on right to equality under Article 14, the judgement removed around 25 sections of the same Act. 

In this case, the court stated that begging is not any form of a disease rather it is the mindset of people which has stigmatized and ultimately led to criminalization in the society. It also mentioned that criminalizing thing like begging will only be proven as a attack on fundamental rights of the poor people. Somehow, this thing might also have negative impact on the basic necessities like food and shelter.

  • We can also look at the case of National Legal Service Authority [NALSA] v UOI[8] This case law would give us a different perspective. 

The case was filed by the National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) with the aim of providing identity to persons who ‘fall out’ the category of male/female or we can say to the third sex. 

People were discriminating the transgender person, But the court stated that Article 14 of the Constitution that is the Right to Equality, was made to provide equal rights to all the citizens in gender neutral terms.

Conclusion

Article 14 of the constitution is one of the vital Fundamental Rights under Part 3 of the Indian Constitution. It is one of the most important article because it provides equality to all the people irrespective of their caste, gender, religion etc.

The Article has 2 important aspects namely equality before the law and the equal protection of the law and both of them play a vital role.

According to this law, no person shall be said to be above the law. All of them has to abide to the provisions of law. But keep in mind that equality as provided under Article 14 is not universal rather the principle of equality shall be followed among equals. 

The only reason to make such laws is that people must get maximum benefits from these laws. Classification on any basis is not okay. 

There are a few developments made under Article 14. The main purpose is to remove arbitrates which exists in the mindset of people. This article could be said to have a wider scope.


[1] CONSTITUTION OF INDIA P.No.48 (Eastern Book Company, 2017 Thirteenth Edition)

[2] AIR 1951 SC 318

[3] AIR 1974 SC 555

[4] AIR 1978 SC 597

[5] Judicial Review Laxmikanth Summary https://youtu.be/gtc-iBmjkU0

[6] Judicial Review Laxmikanth Summary Available at https://youtu.be/gtc-iBmjkU0

[7] 2018 Del HC

[8] AIR 2014 SC 1863.

Author: Sparsh Bagga (Amity Law School, Noida)

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