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
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
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-
- Absence of Arbitrary power of supremacy of law.
- Equality before the law.
- 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
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