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Right To Equality

The purpose of this research is to identify the meaning of Equality before law which is defined under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. It is one of the fundamental right. This concept introduce us with the importance of Article 14 and the difference between Equality before the law and Equal protection of the law. It also introduce us with the new concept equality and relating cases.

Article 14 of the Constitution of India declares that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws written in the territory of India. Article 14 has been taken from Section 1 of the 14 th Amendment Act of the Constitution of the United State. It is not only right of Indian Citizens but also the right of non-citizens. Article 14 Equality before law means that each person within the territory of India will get equal protection of laws.

Meaning and Importance of Article 14 Equality before law

Equality before law means that among equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered, that like should be treated alike. The right to sue and to be sued, to prosecute and to be prosecuted for the same kind of actions should be same for all the citizens of full age and understanding without distinctions of race, religion, wealth, social status and political influence. Article 14 of the Constitution does not meant to perpetuate illegality and fraud.

Equality is a trite, which cannot be claimed in the illegality and therefore, cannot be enforced by a citizen or Court in a negative manner. Thus Article 14 uses two expresions Equality before the law and Equal protection of laws. Both these expression have been used in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first expression Equality before the law is of English origin and the second expression equal protection of law is taken from the American Constitution.

Equality before the law is a negative concept implying the absence of any special privilage in favour of individuals and the equal subject of all classes to the ordinary law.

Equal protection of the law is more positive concept implying equality of treatment in equal circumstances. Both the expression gives common idea is that of equal justice.

Difference between equality before law and equal protection of law-

Equality before law

The concept of equality before law does not mean absolute equality among human beings which is physically not possible to achieve. It is a concept implying absence of any special privilage by reason of birth, creed or the like in favour of any individual, and also the equal subject of all individuals and classes to the ordinary law of the land.

According to Dicey, equality before law is rule of law. It means that no man is above the law and that every person, whatever be his rank or conditions, is subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts.

Dicey gave three meanings of Rule of law-

  1. Absence of Arbitrary power of supremacy of law.
  2. Equality before the law.
  3. The Constitution is the result of the ordinary law of the land.

Equal protection of the law-

The guarantee of equal protection of laws is similar to one embodied in the 14 th Amendment to American Constitution. This has been interpreted to subjection to equal law, applying to all in the same circumstances. It only means that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike both in the privileges conferred and liabilities imposed by the laws. Equal law should be applied to all in the same situation, and there should be no discrimination between one person and another. The rule is that the like should be treated alike and not that unlike should be treated as alike.

In Stephen's college v. University of Delhi under the court held that the expression Equal protection of the laws is now being read as a positive Obligation on the state to ensure equal protection of laws by bringing in necessary social and economic changes so that everyone may enjoy equal protection of the laws and nobody is denied such protection. If the state leaves the existing inequality untouched laws by its laws, it fails in its duty of providing equal protection of its laws to all persons. State will provide equal protection to all the people of India who are citizen of India and as well as non citizens of India.

New concept of equality: protection against arbitrariness-

In E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, the supreme court has drifted from the traditional concept of equality which was based on reasonable classification and has laid down a new concept of equality.

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, Bhagwati, J., quoted with approval the new concept of equality. He said- Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be imprisoned within traditional and doctrinaire limits. Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in State action and ensures fairness and equality of treatment. The principle of reasonableness, which legally as well as philosophically, is an essential element of equality, or non- arbitrariness pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipresence.

Where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and therefore violative of Article 14.

Relating cases
In the case of Air India v. Nargesh Mirza Regulation 46 of Indian Airlines regulations provides an air hostess will be retire from the service upon attaining the age of 35 years or marriage within 4 years of service or on first pregnancy, whoever found earlier but regulation 47 of the Regulations Act, the managing director had the discretion extend the age of retirement one year at a time beyond the age of retirement up to the age of 45 years at his option if an air hostess was found medically fit.

It was held by the court that an air hostess on the ground of pregnancy was unreasonable and arbitrary, it was the violation of Article 14 under constitution law of India.

The regulation does not restrict marriage after 4 years and if an air hostess after fulfilling the conditions became pregnant, there was no ground why first pregnancy should stand in the way of her running service. The court said that the termination of service on pregnancy was manifestly unreasonable and arbitrary on the basis of this it was the violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

In D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, case the Supreme Court said that Rule 34 central services (pension) rules 1972, as unconstitutional on the ground that the classification made by it between pensioners retiring before a certain dare and retiring after that date was not depend upon any rational principal, it was arbitrary and infringement of Article 14 of Constitution of India.

Keeping the above mentioned statements given by different courts, it is clear that Article 14 gives the surety of equal rights without discrimination. It says everyone is equal in the eyes of law. There is no discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race or social status. Right to equality is one of the most important part of our Indian Constitution, which gives strengthen to all those who belongs to Indian Nationality. It is the necessity of the upcoming generation to secure their rights and change our developing India into developed India.

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