The Indian constitution is not merely a legal document but it is a living entity. It consists of several impressive ideas we gich is enshrined in the preamble. The preamble to the constitution of India has fine balanced between fundamental rights and fundamental duties. It is that part from where we can get some idea about the concept of equality. First of all, the term equality means we all have sane and justified rights irrespective of our biases. Article 14 of our constitution simply declares that there is equality before law and equal protection of law.In addition to fundamental rights, fundamental duties and directive principles of state policy also empowers us to safeguard our equality. However, there can be several kinds of equality like ; social equality, political equality, economic equality, etc.Thus, it is pertinent to follow the key ideas behind equality before law.
PRINCIPLES OF EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
Equality before the law talks about equal subjection of all citizens (rich or poor, high or low, official or non-official) to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts and is a negative concept as implies the absence of any privilege in favor of any individual and equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law. Whereas, equal protection of the laws is a Positive Concept as it implies equality of treatment in equal circumstances both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. So, all the persons must be treated alike on reasonable classification. Among equals law should be equal and equally administered. The guarantee of equal protection applies against substantive as well as procedural laws.
Article 14 in The Constitution Of India
Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
SOURCE AND LIMITATION OF EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
Rule of the Law is an inference derived from Article 14 of the constitution. The article 14 aims to establish the “Equality of Status and Opportunity” as embodied in the Preamble of the Constitution.
The Rule of Law cannot prevent a certain class of persons from being subject to special laws, hence, the State has the power to make laws operating differently on different classes of people, in a way that the principle of equality of civil rights and equal protection of law is followed. This is being known as the ‘Doctrine of Reasonable Classification’.
Article 14 permits Reasonable Classification and not Class Legislation. Class Legislation means making of improper discrimination by conferring certain privileges upon a class of persons arbitrarily selected from a huge number of people. Thus, Class legislation violates equal protection whereas, Reasonable Classification is always based on real and substantial distinction.
CASE LAWS RELATED TO EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1
The over-emphasis on the ‘objective’ of the law, instead of its ‘effect’ – particularly when the objective is ostensible – was observed not to further the true meaning of the equality clauses under the Indian Constitution. The traditional two- pronged classification test needs to be expanded for the Courts to undertake a substantive review of Article 14 violations, away from the formalistic tendency that the twin test leans towards.
Kedar Nath v. State of West Bengal
In the year 2006, the West Bengal government agreed to let Tata Motors build and operate a car manufacturing unit in the state. As a result, for this project they acquired approximately 1,000 acres of agricultural land under the land acquisition act. The livelihood of approximately 25,000 people was affected. After huge protest, compensations were given to some to those people. When a new Act was passed regarding land acquisition, Tata Motors challenged the constitutionality of the new Act before the Supreme Court arguing that it conflicts with the earlier land acquisition act. The Court however rejected Tata Motors plea and stated that the state legislature can change its laws. The court further held that the land that was previously acquired by Tata Motors was not for public purpose and the present government exercised its eminent domain. The Court quashed the acquisition of landowners and declared it illegal and void ordering the Government of Bengal to conduct a survey on what land needed to be returned. The court also ordered that the compensation that has already been paid to the landowners shall not be returned and shall serve as a penalty for the company.
Equality before Law basically means that all persons should be treated equally no matter whether they are poor or rich, male or female, upper caste or lower caste. This state cannot provide any special privileges to anyone in the country. It is also known as legal equality. Article 14 guarantees equality before law. In simple terms, it means that any person who lives within the territory of India should be provided with equal rights before the law. There should no discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, etc. in the territory of India.
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