Introduction- Article 14 of the Constitution of India comes under Part III of the constitution i.e. fundamental rights. The basic human rights of every citizen of India are guaranteed under fundamental rights. The rights are implemented by the courts and are subject to some reasonable limitations.
One of such fundamental rights is equality before law, and is the first fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution of India. It refers to the equality in the eyes of law, prohibits discrimination between two people.
Article 14: –
“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
The article guarantees two things i.e. Equality before Law
Equal protection of Law
The article applies to not just Indian Citizens, but everyone within the territory of India, including foreigners.
Historical Background: –
A V Dicey a British jurist and a constitutional theorist, made the concept of ‘Rule of Law’ in the British Constitution.
‘Rule of law’ basically means ‘Supremacy of law’ i.e. Government as well as Governed, everyone should be treated equally by the law.
Indian Constitution adopted this concept and is reflected at two place: –
- In Preamble: Equality of status and of opportunity.
- In Article 14: Equality before law and equal protection of law to every person within the territory of India.
Article 14 as an approach
Article 14(2): Equal protection of law Article 14(1): Equality before law
Article 14(1): Equality Before Law.
- It is an English law concept i.e. rule of law which implies that nobody is above law, authority as well as the people all are treated equally before the law, or in other words ‘Law is Supreme to all’.
- This, as shown in above diagram, is negative approach to the rule which ensures that nobody is subjected to special privileges, and all are treated equally by the ordinary law of the land.
- It has a universal application i.e. how one person is treated before law, every other should be treated the same, and is subjected to reasonable limitations.
- One of the most apparent application of this article is that Lady Justice is Blind Folded, which symbolize impartiality. She does not see who comes before her, if they are friends or enemies, high or low, rich or poor. The concept is of 16th century of Rome, and is reflected in article 14 of the constitution of India too.
- There are a number of exceptions to article 14(1): –
- Foreign diplomats enjoy immunity from the country’s judicial process;
- Article 361 provides immunity to the President of India and the State Governors.
Article 14(2): Equal Protection of Law
- It is American Concept, and as shown in above diagram is a positive approach to the rule which doesn’t mean identical application over everyone.
- It doesn’t have a universal application in the sense as illustrated in the following example: –
Two boys, one is 5 years old and other is 10 years old, and lives in the same home. The rule of equal protection of law demand treatment to both as accordingly as they are classified. E.g. Both should not be given equal quantity of food, but as according to their age.
That is to say, equal treatment to equal and equal treatment in equal circumstances without any distinction of religion, race, wealth, social status, political influence etc.
Equality among Equals
In the case of State of Bombay v. F.N. Balsara 1951 AIR 318, the Supreme Court formulated a test for determining undue advantage of article 14 of the constitution of India (also known as old doctrine). The test defines two litmus test steps to determine undue advantage: –
- Intelligible Differentia: There has to be an intelligent reason for differentiating two groups. Example- A school gave same test to Class 5th and Class 10th students. It is obvious that Class 10th students will score more, and it is unfair to Class 5th students. Hence, the two must be differentiated and be given two different tests as according to their standards.
- Rational Nexus: It means that there must be a rational relationship between classification and desired result. Example – Class 5th students should not be taught as according to class 10th standard and both be given same test. Objective must be similar standard group must be treated accordingly
But the Supreme Court in the case of E D Royappa v. State of Tamil Naidu 1974 AIR 555, held this old doctrine as too negative approach and held that “Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be ‘cribbed, cabined and confined’ within the traditional and doctrinaire limits. With changing time, changes the needs of the society and meaning of public welfare. If any law satisfies the old doctrine, we should not say that it satisfies article 14”. The Supreme Court hence formed new doctrine for determining undue advantage with three litmus tests:
- Intelligible Differentia;
- Rational Nexus;
- Natural Justice – which implies that if anything is arbitrary, it is opposite to equality.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978 AIR 597, the court had the same view and said that the sole motive of article 14 is to strike out arbitrariness from state action. The court held that ‘Reasonableness is an essential element of equality or non-arbitrariness’.
It means that if any state action is arbitrary, it means it is not in consonance with equality, no matter what if it satisfies any test or not.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India and Citizenship Amendment Act: –
While debating the Bill in Parliament, Home Minister took up the issue of Article 14 of the Constitution and stressed that the article allows to make laws based on “reasonable classification”.
Section 2(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act, the following proviso is inserted: –
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act”.
Section 6(B) (1) of the amendment act says that – The Central Government or an authority specified by it in this behalf may, subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner as may be prescribed, on an application made in this behalf, grant a certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation to a person referred to in the proviso to clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 2.
Section6(B)(2) Subject to fulfilment of the conditions specified in section 5 or the qualifications for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, a person granted the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a citizen of India from the date of his entry into India.
The law laid down by the Supreme Court Constitution Bench judgement in 1994 in S. R. Bommai’s case says that no law can be enacted by the Parliament or by a state legislature on the basis of religion.
The case of constitutional validity of the said amendment is still in Supreme Court, but in authors personal views the amendment is arbitrary in nature because it recognises the persecution of specific minorities i.e. Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian; from specific neighbouring states i.e. Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. This specific recognition is not reasonable classification and is arbitrary in nature because it doesn’t treats all persecuted minorities equally example muslims of Myanmar are not recognised by this law and hence opposes article 14.
Conclusion: – Article 14 provide for equality before law and equal protection of law. Both the terms have different meaning and different mode of application. One is of generic use as a standard norm while the other is used specifically for better public welfare. The article is based on the principle that ‘equals should be treated alike’ Persons who are in the like circumstances should be treated equally.
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