Rights with a glorious history are considered to be fundamental rights. These basic human rights act as the external conditions required for a human being's capacities to develop feasibly. One of the wonderful pillars of Indian democracy is equality. A necessary corollary of the Rule of Law pervades the Indian Constitution is the right to equality before the law. There are two concepts of equality in law: First, Equality before the law and Second, Equal protection of the law. This blog will discuss the right to equality (equality before the law and equal protection of the law), the test of reasonable classification and some landmark case laws.
Article 14: Right to equality
The Indian constitution states that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the law within the territory of India”
Equality before law
It is an English concept that ensures that no one has special privileges in their favour, that everyone is equally subject to the general law of the land, and that no one, regardless of rank or position, is above the law. This is analogous to the Dicean idea of the Rule of Law in Britain's second corollary. However, there are several exceptions to this general rule. For example, foreign diplomats are exempt from the country's legal proceedings under Article 361, while public officials and judges also have some protection. Some special groups and interests, such as trade unions, have also been granted immunity under this provision.
Equal Protection of Law
The 14th amendment to the American constitution includes a similar provision of equal protection of the laws, which states that everyone is subject to the same laws that apply to everyone in the same situations. It simply implies that everyone will be treated equally with regard to the rights conferred and duties imposed by the law.
Meaning: No discrimination should exist between individuals, and equal law should be applied in all situations.
The Constitution's Article 14 states that the right to equal protection under the law is extended to "every person," which includes any business, organisation, or group of people. Article 14 protects both citizens and non-citizens, natural or legal persons.
Exceptions to the Rule
- However, there are many exceptions to the above equality rule, and it is not an absolute norm. For example, "equality before the law" does not imply that private persons' rights are equal to those of public officials. As a result, only a police officer has the authority to make an arrest.
- The application of special laws to certain groups of people is not prohibited under the rule of law. Thus, military regulations govern those who serve in the armed forces.
- The statutes grant very broad flexibility to ministers and other executive authorities. The law may give a Minister the freedom "to act as he considers proper" or "if he is satisfied."
- Lawyers, doctors, nurses, members of the armed services, and police are just a few of the members of society whose professions are subject to special rules.
Test of reasonable classification
While class legislation is prohibited under Article 14, the legislature is nonetheless permitted to classify people, objects, and transactions fairly to achieve goals. However, categorisation 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.
There are two conditions which need to be fulfilled for a reasonable classification
- It should be on the basis of intelligible differentia
- Rational relation of the differentia with the object
Landmark cases of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution
1. Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997)
The landmark judgment where the court held that Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace violates their fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21. It led to the enactment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013.
2. Shayara Bano v. UOI (2017)
A 5-judge bench of the SC held that the practice of instantaneous Triple Talaq was unconstitutional. It was observed that it violated Muslim women’s right to equality guaranteed under the constitution.
3. Indian Young Lawyer’s Association v. State of Kerala (2018)
The SC by the majority of 4:1 ratio declared the custom of Sabrimala temple prohibiting females in their ‘menstruating years’ from entering the temple area.
4. Navtej Singh Jauhar v. UOI (2018)
The landmark judgment where section 377 of IPC was struck down as it criminalised same-sex relations between consenting adults. it was claimed that it violated the rights of the LGBT community.
Points to remember:
- Protection of A. 14 extends to citizens and non-citizens both
- A.14 allows classification but restricts class legislation
- A.14 grants equal pay for Equal work
The fundamental rights are outlined in Articles 14 to 18, which speak about gender, status, and community equality. Article 14 is a crucial section of the constitution and the first of the essential rights since it gives all citizens the freedom to create anything in any place. Equality before the law- Within the boundaries of India, the State shall not deny anyone's right to equal treatment under the law or to equal protection of the laws. Discrimination against people based on their origin, race, caste, religion, or gender is forbidden. The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on a variety of grounds, including "sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or another viewpoint.