ARTICLE 15: PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION ON THE GROUNDS OF RELIGION, RACE, CASTE ETC.

Introduction

No form of discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, caste, or place of birth is one of the rights that India’s Constitution grants to its residents. This right is established in Part III of the Indian Constitution under the category of Fundamental Rights. Caste- and religion-based prejudice have long prevailed in India. Before India gained its freedom, prejudice was pervasive throughout the country, whether it took the form of untouchability or the separation of higher and lower castes. Even if discrimination still occurs today, the repercussions are considerably more severe and illegal.

Diverse perspectives frequently result in disagreements, and those disagreements occasionally result in prejudice. Caste prejudice, which is still present in some areas of India, and is one of the main causes of discrimination of the nation. Traditionally, caste systems—lower and upper—were the main division in society and for the lower classes, untouchability had existed.

Numerous discrimination cases have a range of different foundations. For the majority of India’s history, discrimination has been primarily motivated by caste and religion. Discrimination based on gender is not a recent phenomenon either. The Indian Constitution’s Article 15 protects its citizens from all forms of discrimination, and this article discusses its contents. There is no doubt that prejudice may happen in a nation with as many distinct religions, ideologies, dialects, customs, etc. as India has. Therefore, Article 15’s aim is to safeguard the rights and interests of the populace.

Scope of the word ‘Discrimination’:

When you are distinguished from or treated less favourably than another person in similar circumstances, as opposed to when you are placed on an equal footing with another person under different circumstances, such as when one is differently abled, this is known as discrimination. It is impossible to rationally and objectively justify this action.

Article 15 forbids discrimination based on:

Religion – It means that no one should be denied access to any public space or policy by the government or any other group on the grounds of their religion.

Race – Discrimination shouldn’t be based on a person’s ancestry. A citizen of Afghan descent, for instance, shouldn’t face the same discrimination as someone of Indian descent.

Caste – To stop atrocities committed by the higher caste on the lower castes, discrimination based on caste is likewise illegal.

Sex – A person’s gender cannot be used as a justification for discrimination in any situation. discriminating against women, transgender people, etc.

Place of birth – The place a person was born should not be used as a basis for prejudice towards other citizens.

In Kathi Raning Rawat v. State of Saurashtra, the state of Saurashtra established special courts under the Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance 1949 to decide cases involving sections 302, 307, and 392 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, read with section 34. The argument made in court was that these rules discriminate against residents depending on the place . The court ruled that no legislative distinction of any type is discriminatory. It is not discrimination because the law did not relate to specific individual situations but rather to specific types of offences committed in specific locations.

ARTICLE 15 AN OVERVIEW

Racism, untouchability, and different types of discrimination based on gender and religion are all prohibited in India under Article 15. The most common form of prejudice in India is caste discrimination. Caste separation leads to discrimination and untouchability. Untouchability is now illegal in India, although some regions still practise it due to caste prejudice and a lack of legal awareness. Because it is perceived that people born into lower castes are inferior to those born into higher castes, there is prejudice towards them.

Article 15 defines this type of discrimination as an offence, and individuals found guilty of the offence face punishment and penalties. The Indian Constitution grants reservation to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes in order to support the economic advancement of the country’s residents who belong to socially and economically underprivileged groups.

To give reservations to economically disadvantaged sectors, the Central Government proposed the 124th Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament in 2019. (EWS). The purpose of the measure was to give EWS a 10% reservation in higher education and government employment. Due to the passing of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019, provision was added to Article 15 as a result. This was done to give EWS fair opportunity as pre-independence prejudice and hardships had left them economically and socially disadvantageous.

In addition to discrimination based on backwardness, Article 15 also concerns discrimination based on gender. Women have long fought for equal rights and opportunities, and although these policies have been in place since the 1950s, they are only now beginning to receive wider respect. In order to fulfil the aforementioned goal of equal rights, the scope of this article is expanded to include women as well, giving them specific protection.

ARTICLE 15(1)

One medical college that was built in Indore and was under the supervision of the Madhya Pradesh government was at issue in the case DP Joshi v. State of Madhya Bharat. The state government established a rule stating that all accommodating students dwelling in Madhya Bharat would not be forced to pay any capitation fees, but that all non-domicile students would be required to pay a small capitation charge of between 1300 and 1500 rupees. By submitting a writ to the Supreme Court under Article 32, this rule was contested on the grounds that it had violated fundamental rights.

ARTICLE 15( 2)

No person shall be the target of any restriction, any disability, or any other kind of discrimination with respect to:

  • In the case of Nainsukhdas v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Article 15(2) was cited.
  • The state had created separate electoral boards in this case for numerous religions. The court held that no one can be subjected to discrimination by the government.

ARTICLE 15(3)

The state’s ability to pass specific laws for women and children is unaffected by this section. Under this article, the state has the power to make specific concessions for women and children.

In Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay, the court determined that only men are capable of committing adultery and being held accountable under Section 497 of the IPC. The court further ruled that it is against Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution to punish a woman for assisting and abetting.

The woman was protected by article 15(3), according to the court, because it is a specific provision made by the state for women. Because adultery violates Indian Constitutional Articles 14, 15, and 21, it was recently declared a civil offence in Joseph Shine v. Union of India. As a result, it is no longer regarded as a criminal offence and is solely grounds for divorce.

ARTICLE 15(4)

This article was added by the Constitution’s first amendment. The constituent assembly of our Indian Constitution, which wrote this article, inserted it. This provision grants the state the power to create particular arrangements for:

  • The Backward classes of citizens
  • The Schedule class
  • The Schedule tribes

A landmark judgement in the case State of Madras vs. C. Dorairajan led to the addition of Article 15(4) to the Indian Constitution. This is the first significant court ruling on reservations in India. Following a Madras high court decision, caste-based reservations were made for seats in higher education institutions and government jobs.

The Supreme Court claims that the sole basis for reservation under article 15(4) is caste. It went on to say that article 15(4) neither provides any classification based on the terms “backward and more backward classes” nor contains any reservations based on them.

Article 15(5): This section gives the state the authority to implement measures to support the advancement of socially and educationally disadvantaged groups, such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This article grants the state the power to enact regulations that apply to all educational institutions, regardless of whether they receive state funding or not, and irrespective of the minority educational institutions listed in Article 30. (1).

The 93rd amending act included a new “enabling part” called Article 15(5). This was established in the case “Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs. Union of India”8. Additionally, the court ruled in the case “T.M.A. Pai Foundation”9 that an individual has the right to establish and manage any private educational institution under Art 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.

Even though all of the aforementioned topics related to Art 15 were examined together, the courts have consistently ruled that both Art 15(4) and Art 15(5) are legal and do not conflict with one another.

ARTICLE 15(6)

The government is given the power to create specific policies, including reservations in educational institutions, for the advancement of “economically weaker sectors” of society. The 103rd amendment to the Constitution was added in 2019. The article also states that 10% of the reservation must be set aside for EWS. This 10% of reservations is not subject to any existing reservation caps.

CONCLUSION

In spite of a strict caste system, Article 15 has long supported India’s unity and equality. It is the protector of the underprivileged and a shield against prejudice. It has enabled Indian society stand tall and proud in the face of great diversity, sexism, and racism. Article 15 has always made an extra effort to assist those who are truly in need. The position of the oppressed has significantly improved since it began in 1949. It provides the legislative branch with all they need to implement policies that promote societal harmony. Atrocities committed against the poor have dramatically decreased in frequency.

References

Books:

Constitutional Law Of India-  Dr. J.N. Pandey

Introduction to the Constitution Of India- Durga Das Basu

Constitution Of India- V.N. Shukla

Citations:

Kathi Raning Rawat vs The State Of Saurashtra, 1952 AIR 123, 1952 SCR 435

Nain Sukh Das And Another vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh, 1953 AIR 384, 1953 SCR 1184

Yusuf Abdul Aziz vs The State Of Bombay,1954 AIR 321, 1954 SCR 930

D. P. Joshi vs The State Of Madhya Bharat,1955 AIR 334, 1955 SCR (1)1215

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