Article 14 : Right to Equality


By Anjana K H

“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”(1)


Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the most significant fundamental right to all it’s citizen that the equality before law  and equal protection of law.

According to this provision , the state is responsible for the denial of equality in treatment to its citizen.

We have to consider the two parts of the Article 14 as it has wider meaning than the literal meaning.

In the society , there will be that much categories of people and all their rights should be granted equally.


As per the provision , it directs state that it shall not  deny the right to equality and equal protection of law to its citizen. The  protection of equality rights should be fair as it says to treat Equals in an equal way .

The equality before law and the equal protection of law ( two important expressions in the provision ) indicates two different meanings and generally covers all the aspects of equality in which ,the rights are to be protected and granted.

Equality before law denotes the equal consideration for all the citizen irrespective of their titles (rich , poor etc.).

Equal protection of law indicates that the citizens should be protected equally in the same circumstances .

Equality before law

The concept of equality before law was embodied in English common law as its a declaration of equality in which the equality in all matters is offering to all persons. It doesn’t contain any special privilege in favor of any individual.

Article 14 of Indian Constitution grants equality in the enjoyment rights and enforcement of liabilities.

Equal Protection of Law

it will be the duty of the state to offer and take essential steps for the equal protection of law as it should be availed for all the citizen without any inability in choosing the right measures to find the reasonable classification of persons.

it indicates the right to have equal treatment in privileges and liabilities. It denotes the principle that the likes should be treated alike or  among the equals, they are needed to be treated alike and law should be equally enforced.

Doctrine of Reasonable Classification

Article 14 supports reasonable classification for the development of the society by classifying persons , objects ,  transactions by the state. But even though it permits reasonable classification , it doesn’t allow class legislation by conferring particular privileges upon a class of persons.

The Reasonable Classification should be determined with a test prescribed for the same.

1 : It says that , when reasonable classification allows for classifying a group of persons , it must be based upon intelligible differentia .

Intelligible differentia proposes to distinguish persons or things that are grouped together from others.

if no relation can be found , the reasonable classification will be failed.

2 : The intelligible differentia should be in relation with the object of the classification and must have a rational relation with the object.

Doctrine of Manifest Arbitrariness

In Shayara Bano vs k.s Puttuswamy , supreme court made notes on the doctrine of Manifest  Arbitrariness .

•it is used to erase an Act or legislation , when it gets found it as arbitrary.

•Under this doctrine , the plenary legislation can be examined.

•supreme court made a point that no principles and doctrines are there to give wide discretion to a judge.

•when there is an Arbitrariness , the doctrines of Reasonable Classification and Manifest Arbitrariness can used.

          The doctrine is specifically used to understand whether the law or legislation is based on the rule or against Article 14 .If the Act violates any of the equality provision , it can be found and reexamined through these doctrines and that legislation should be erased or the plenary provision should be avoided.

Case Laws

Tamil Nadu Electricity Board vs. R Veeraswamy

Here , on 1-07-1986 , a new scheme of provident fund was introduced . Till the date , it was governed by contributory provident fund scheme.

The issue involved was whether the scheme is applicable to the persons retired before its commencement. The rules prescribed that it will be a financial burden and all the persons who retired got their benefits already.

Court said that the already retired employees and workmen are two different categories and no illegality existing in the commencement of the new scheme.

E.P Royappa Vs. State of Tamil Nadu and Another

The court held that , the Article 14 is an important provision in the Indian Constitution and can’t be applied for a narrow interpretation. It gives arbitrariness and reasonableness to certain provisions of the legislations.(2)

Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India

It was held that , Article 14 of Indian Constitution ensures fairness and equality of treatment and gives directions to take effective measures. Rule of law also excludes arbitrariness and if it is found , its sure that there is denial of rule of law.

Related Provisions

Article 14 to Article 18 of Indian Constitution contains  various equality provisions.


Article 14

It states that , within the territory of India , all citizen should be treated equally.

Article 15 – Prohibition of Discrimination

Article 15 of Indian Constitution prohibits the discrimination or discriminatory attitude to citizen on grounds of race , religion , caste , place of birth , sex or any of them.

It also says that , on grounds of religion , sex,caste,place of birth , or any of them , an Indian citizen should not be discriminated from using public wells , tanks , bathing Ghats , roads and restricted from accessing shops , restaurants , hotels, palaces of public entertainment.

By the clauses it is not preventing state from making any special provision for the betterment of women , children and socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.

Article 16

This article says about  giving equal opportunity in public employment . It is here by clarifies that an Indian citizen shall not be face discrimination in the matters of public employment or appointment on the grounds of  sex , place of birth , caste , religion , race ,descent or residence .

But it’s also declares that making special provisions for people from backward classes in these matters are not excluded.

Article 17

Under this article , the practice of untouchability is prohibited.

As it is abolished , the practice of the untouchability will constitute an offence and will be punishable under law.

Article 18

The provision itself says  that an Indian citizen is not allowed to accept the titles from other foreign states and in India , only military and academic titles are allowed to confer by state. It is here by abolishing the title other than the specified ones.

Rule of Law

Rule of Law has been defined by Aristotle as Government of law .He implied it through three things.

• absolutely it has supremacy over law

• equality before law

• Rights from customs and traditions.

Rule of law is the basis of democratic Constitutions as in Indian Constitution , the article 14 was inserted.


•The president and the Governor of the state are not answerable in any court of law.

•Foreign sovereign and ambassadors are exempted.

•No civil proceeding against the President or Governor in which a relief is claimed.

•No criminal proceedings against The President and The Governor.

Importance of Article 14

The most importantly it guarantees not to treat identically but similarly.

And obviously it doesn’t prohibit the reasonable classification also as it has a wider meaning than a narrow one.

Power of the State

It is the power of the state to have a classification on the basis of the rational relation of the object and classification of the particular subject.

The permissible classification is not allowed without a reasonable or satisfying reason but with an intelligible differentia and rational relation with the object .So as there is no special interest in the subject matter and some class of people are exempted or added in a favorable way , there is no question arises by doubting the violation of equality provision.


The preamble of Indian Constitution can be considered as a source of the concept of equality. It denotes that the objective of the preamble consists with the absolute form of equality . So, by reading preamble , we can understand that the concept of equality indicates that there shall be no special privilege for anyone than other .As preamble can be read as the key to the Constitution , it definitely providing the meaning that the absolute equality should be done and the term discrimination can be considered here in a negative way.

Here, the term equality means there is no special privileges for any section of the society and all the people should be eligible for equal opportunities without being discriminated.


In India , the supremacy of Constitution can be considered as its the most important feature Indian Constitution along with the non amending feature of fundamental rights. Fundamental Rights are the basis human rights with the legal sanction. The equality Provisions in the Constitution importantly concentrating on the equal rights of the citizen and equal enjoyment of it .Thus Article 14 can be read as ,

“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

It means the duty of conferring equal rights and opportunities to all the citizen is vested in state and no one is privileged with any of the reason.

It has two parts ; the equality before law and the equal protection of law. Both would be felt alike but these two has different meanings.

The concept equality before law can be read as a declaration of equality in which the equality in all matters is offering to all persons. The concept was introduced by the common law as its a common law principle and it doesn’t contain any kind of the scope of special privileges in favor of anyone within the territory of India.

It will be the responsibility of the state to take and offer the essential steps for the equal protection of law 

It indicates the right to have equal treatment in privileges and interpretation.

Article 14 should be read with the doctrine of reasonable classification. It is still supporting the classification of people , or objects on the basis of satisfying tests. By proving the reasonableness , a special privilege to a particular class will be granted.

The intelligible differentia and Rational Relation should be satisfied while mentioning the Constitutionality of the classifications or privileges.

In various case laws , the court made notes on the validity of classifications and their Constitutionality with the Article 14.

Court held that the Article 14  is an important provision in the in Indian Constitution and can’t be applied in a narrow interpretation.

Also, in another case , it made it clear that the Article 14 of Indian Constitution ensures fairness and equality of treatment and if its not there , it is the denial of rule of law.

The Constitution itself contains that much equality Provisions as it has a preamble which involves the objective to find out social equality.

With the permissible classification , it is meant to relax the absoluteness of the concept. While finding out the permissible and satisfying reasons and grounds to arrange the persons or classes so , it is essential to validate the legal basis of the same.

In P Rajendran vs. State of Madras , court said that classification will be valid under article 14  even if there is satisfying reasons which connects the relation between the classification and object of it.

In john vallamattom vs. Union of India , court invalidated the section 118 of the Indian succession Act ,1925 as it was giving a right to make will to a Christian only for religious and charitable purposes.

so, all these are the important elements of Article 14.


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