Equality before Law – Article 14 of Constitution of India
Equality is an essential aspect of human life. No human being can live a life without equality. Equality is a basic human right as well as natural rights. Right to equality is a fundamental right which is enshrined in part III of the Constitution of India. Equality is an important element of the Indian Constitution and any treatment of equals unequally or unequal as equals will be an offence of crucial configuration of the Indian Constitution.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India deal with the equality before the law and equal protection of laws. As per Article 14, the state shall not withhold to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the province of India. This right is available for the citizens of India and foreigners.
Background of Article 14
Equality before the law and equal protection of the law is one of the most essential fundamental rights. The concept of equality before the law is inspired by the British Constitution. It is an element of the concept of the rule of law propounded by the British jurist A. V. Dicey. It implies the dearth of special exemptions in favour of any person, the equal domination of all persons to the common law of the land operated by common laws, and no person is above the law of the nation.
The concept of equal protection of laws is taken from the American Constitution. This concept connotes equality of treatment under equal conditions, the related plea of the same laws to all persons who are similarly positioned, all persons should be treated equally without any discrimination based on race, caste, creed, gender and religion.
Exceptions of Article 14
The rule of Article 14 is not absolute and there are constitutional and other exceptions to it. The exceptions of equality before the law and equal protection of the law are stated below:
(i) According to Article 361,
- the President and the Governors of India are not accountable before any court in India for the exercise and performance of the power and duties of his office.
- During the work period of the President and the Governors no criminal proceedings shall be instituted against them.
- During the work period of the President and the Governors of India no imprisonment shall be allocated from any court.
- During the work period of the President and the Governors of India no civil proceedings shall be instituted against them.
(ii) According to Article 361(A), no person shall be accountable to any civil and criminal proceedings in any court of India in respect of the publication in a newspaper of a substantially valid report of any proceedings of Parliament or Legislature of a State.
(iii) Article 105 stated that no member of Parliament shall be accountable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote provided by him in Parliament or any council thereof.
(iv) Article 194 stated that no member of Legislature of a State shall be accountable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote provided by him in the legislature or any council thereof.
(v) Article 31(c) is an exception to Article 14.
Purpose of Article 14
The purpose of Article 14 ‘Equity before the law and equal protection of law’ is to treat all persons equally in similar situations. The classification must not be erratic but must be realistic. This provision is strictly restricted to discrimination and discriminatory laws. It prohibited any discrimination based on religion, caste, creed and sex which is a sentimental issue of a person. Article 14 is not abolished by a Constitutional amendment.
Over the years, the apex court of India has witnessed many cases related to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws, some cases are mentioned below:
- In the case of Alagaapuram R Mohanraj V. TN Legislative Assembly (2016 6 SCC 82: AIR 2016 SC 867), the Supreme Court of India has stated that resolution passed by a legislative assembly for a suspension of some MLA’s should be set aside on the ground of infringement of principles of natural justice Article 14 in the process of investigation.
- In the case of M Nagaraj V. Union of India (2006 8 SCC 212: AIR 2007 SC 71), the Supreme Court held that the concept of equality enables the differential procedure but it deters that are not properly justified. Justification needs each case to be decided on a case to case basis.
- In the case of Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association V. State of Maharashtra (2015 16 SCC 100), the Supreme Court said that licensing authority has sufficient power to regulate the violence of dignity of women and prohibit obscene dances in the interest of prestige and safety of women.
- Anand Buttons Limited V. State of Haryana( 2005 9 SCC 164: AIR 2005 SC 565), the Supreme Court held that Article 14 of the Constitution of India does not mandate that a person should be approved of illegal and unjustified relief similar to those granted to others.
- In the case of Yogendra Pal V. Municipality, Bhatinda (AIR 1994 SC 2550: 1994 5 SCC 709), the Supreme Court stated that a legal provision providing for compulsory transfer of land by a landowner to the municipal committee for a public purpose without the expenditure of compensation has been held to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The Constitution of India protect all the citizen’s rights and given the citizens as well as foreigners equal status and opportunities. All persons are equal under the eyes of the law without any discrimination. Article 14 provides an equal right among the people who lived within the territory of India. If the right vested in Article 14 is violated a person can appeal to any High Court of India or the Supreme Court for the violation of fundamental right. This provision Equality before the law and equal protection of the law is built a strong brotherhood in the nation.
Author: Shreeparna Goswami,
2nd year B.A.LL.B of Shyambazar Law College