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An Overview of Article 14 of the Constitution's Right to Equality

The goal of this study is to determine what the broad concept of Right to Equality is. The term Right to Equality need no explanation because its meaning is self-evident. It is also one of our basic rights. However, there are certain secret elements that need to be explained, and this study effort focuses on such points and exceptions that are permitted by our Indian constitution. It's also useful to understand why discrimination is tolerated under Indian law. Article 14 of Indian law guarantees the right to equality. It is one of the basic rights. It ensures that everyone has the right to equality before the law and equal protection under the law. It is not only an Indian citizen's right, but also a non-right.

In general, everyone here understands Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which is the Right to Equality. Our country has yet to achieve true freedom after 73 years of independence. Discrimination and other evils still exist in our country. This anathema afflicted even the man who drafted our Constitution. Even today, there are some regions where people are treated unequally and discriminated against based on factors such as religion, race, sex, caste, and place of origin.

Knowing the situation in India, our Constitution-makers included Article 14 in the Indian Constitution as a fundamental right for both citizens and non-citizens of our country. The primary goal of this article is to provide clarity on Article 14. When we observe a husband abusing his wife, a girl who is unable to complete her education owing to family pressure, or a lower caste man being treated as inferior to upper caste people, we should be concerned. Discrimination can be seen in several situations.

We can see how crucial the state's role in maintaining citizen equality is in this context."The State shall not refuse to any individual within the territory of India equality before the law or equal protection of the laws," says Article 14.The essential premise of liberalism is to treat all citizens equally, and Article 14 ensures that all citizens receive the same treatment. Any individual's liberty is inextricably linked to the level of equality he or she enjoys in society.

Equal Justice Under the Law

As we all know, our country is a democratic one, and it is the world's largest democratic democracy. Everyone is free to think about anything and do anything (within reason), and our government is there to put appropriate restrictions in place. All people on our country's territory should be treated equally in the eyes of the law.Equality before the law essentially means that all people should be treated similarly, regardless of their socioeconomic status, gender, or caste. This state is unable to grant any preferential treatment to anyone in the country. It's sometimes referred to as legal equality.

Absolute equality and equality before the law

On the one hand, Equality before the Law bans any community or individuals from receiving preferential treatment. It makes no mention of equal treatment under the same conditions. According to it, the ideal situation must exist, and the state does not need to intervene in society by giving additional benefits. The Right to Equality, on the other hand, is not absolute and has various restrictions. As a result, equals must be treated equally. There are a few exceptions to equality before the law, such as the President's and Governor's immunity. Reservation is another common illustration of how the Right to Equality is not absolute and may be limited (or rather used effectively) depending on the situation.

The topic of whether the Right to Equality is absolute or not was discussed in the well-known case of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to equality isn't absolute in this case. The State of Bengal was found to have used its power to submit any matter to the Special Court created by them arbitrarily in this case. As a result, the State of Bengal Act was found to be in violation of the Right to Equality.

Equality before the law and the rule of law are two concepts that are often used interchangeably.We've previously gone through Equality before the Law in depth, but there's also a clear link between Equality before the Law and Rule of Law. In fact, according to Prof. Dicey's Rule of Law, no one is above or below the law, and everyone is equal in front of the law. Equality before the law is guaranteed by the rule of law.

The Rule of Law argues that everyone in a country should be treated equally, and as there is no official religion, the state should not discriminate against any religion. Instead, the principle of uniformity should be used. It is based on the Magna Carta (which is a written charter of rights).

To be fair, classification must meet the following two criteria:
The categorization must be based on an intelligible differentia that separates those who are grouped together from those who are excluded from the group, and the differentia must have a reasonable relationship to the goal of the act. The differentia, which serves as the foundation for classification, and the act's goal are two separate entities. There must be a connection between the foundation of categorization and the aim of the act that creates the classification.

Legislation that makes such a categorization may only be ruled discriminatory if there is no legitimate basis for it. As a result, the legislature may set an age at which people are considered able to contract with one another, but no one will claim that competency. There is no way to make a contract based on height or hair colour. A categorisation like this will be arbitrary.

The supreme court has defined the real interpretation and scope of Article 14 in various judgments.

As a result, the premises set out in Dalmia's case remain legitimate for controlling a valid classification, and they are as follows[20]:

  • A legislation may be constitutional even though it applies to a single individual if that single individual is considered as a class by itself due to particular circumstances or reasons that apply to him but not to others.
  • There is always a presumption in favour of a statute's legality, and the burden of proof is on the person who challenges it to establish that it violates constitutional principles.
  • In certain situations, the assumption can be rebutted by demonstrating that, notwithstanding the fact that the statute contains no classification or distinction unique to any individual or class and not applicable to any other individual or class, the legislation solely affects that individual or class.
  • It must be presumed that the legislature recognises and understands the need of its own people for its laws to address problems that have been identified through experience, and that discrimination is founded on appropriate reasons.
  • To uphold the presumption of legality, the court may examine issues of common knowledge, matters of report, historical context, and any condition of facts that may be imagined existing at the time.

Laws that provide equal protection

This is one of Equality's positive ideals. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment Act of the United States Constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law. This idea states that everyone who lives in India should be treated equally and have equal legal protection. It ensures that all persons living inside India's borders are treated equally, and the state cannot dispute this (for equal protection of the law).It imposes a positive responsibility on the government to avoid rights violations. This can be accomplished by implementing socioeconomic reforms. In Stephens College v. The University of Delhi, the same idea was debated.

In this case, the college admissions procedure was scrutinised, and the primary point of contention was the propriety of giving Christian students precedence in the admissions process. The Supreme Court ruled that a minority college receiving state funding has the right to give preference or reserve places for students from its group.The Supreme Court ruled that unequal treatment of applicants in the admissions process does not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, and that it is necessary for minorities.

Obtaining Justice

The term "equality before the law" refers to the fact that everyone has equal access to the legal system. No one should be denied access to justice. In front of the justice system, everyone should be treated equally. The term Access to Justice refers to a person's fundamental rights. By the term access to justice, we imply that everyone should be able to go to court. In addition, many people are denied access to justice owing to a lack of financial understanding or awareness.

In this case, it implies that the government must play a critical role in ensuring that they receive justice. Our legal system must be reformed in order to provide Access to Justice. We must concentrate on the legal assistance issue.

Protection against arbitrary decisions

The border between arbitrary and non-arbitrary behaviours is narrow. The right to equality precludes the state from acting arbitrarily. This article discusses Equal Protection of the Law and how it differs from the notion of arbitrariness. Every state organ is subject to a number of constraints in order to safeguard it from arbitrariness. It plays a crucial role in preventing the state's organ from making arbitrary decisions.

The legal notion of reasonable expectation

The notion of legitimate expectation is a moral duty on the part of the administration to seek for and enact laws that offer equality to all persons in a region, rather than a legal right. It establishes a judicial review right in administrative law to defend people's interests when public authorities fail to do so (or when Public authority rescinds from the representation made to a person).It serves as a link between people's expectations and any act of power.

These expectations, however, have to be fair and rational, which is why they are referred to as valid expectations.The court has a number of tools at its disposal for reaching the goal of authoritative legislation (here motive is to meet the legitimate expectation). These devices are provided to protect everyone from the state's organs abusing their authority. It imposed a constraint on a state's ability to wield its authority arbitrarily (albeit it is a moral restriction).

Validity of Special Courts under the Constitution

As previously stated, equality before the law is not absolute and has various limitations. One of these exclusions is Article 246(2). According to Article 246(2),"Notwithstanding section (3), Parliament and, subject to clause (1), the Legislature of any State have jurisdiction to pass laws relating to any of the issues included in List III of the Seventh Schedule" (here List III is Concurrent List). In The Special Courts Bill v. Unknown, the constitutionality of Special Courts formed under the Special Courts Act was called into doubt. The institution of special courts under this Act was questioned as to whether it did not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

Discretion in administration

It is the administration's flexibility to respond or make decisions in any scenario based on the circumstances. It is critical to first grasp the meaning of the phrase discretion. Discretion is defined as a person's ability to determine what is wrong and what is right, what is true and what is false, and how to react to these situations.

After that, I'd want to clarify why administrative discretion is necessary. Any legislation passed by the legislature is based on numerous assumptions, and it is impossible to predict everything that will happen as a result of that law. The basic goal of administrative discretion is to ensure that all members of society are treated equally. This administrative power, however, should not be abused and should be utilised sparingly.

Landmark Judgment (Article 14) A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras

This was one of the first major instances involving India's constitution's Part 3. In this decision, the Supreme Court construed Part III of the Indian Constitution's basic rights. In this case, the court had to decide if the Madras Detention Act violated Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Apart from section 14 of the act and limits on the declaration on the grounds of imprisonment, the court found that none of the parts of the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 violate the requirements of Part 3 of the Indian Constitution. The Preventive Detention Act's Section 14 was deemed illegal, and it was repealed.

However, this had no bearing on the act's overall legitimacy. In this decision, the court also determined that the term law as employed in Article 21 of the Constitution refers to procedural due process. Even though several of Gopalan's fundamental rights were infringed under sections 14, 19, and 21, the court found that his detention was legal.

The Court further pointed out that the identical terms in two separate sections cannot be interpreted in the same way. The phrases "procedure established by law" do not equal "due process," according to the court. However, the court's decision in this case was overturned in the case of Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India in 1977.

Landmark Judgment (Article 14) Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri vs Union of India

The court had to decide if the behaviour in issue was in violation of the Indian Constitution's Articles 14, 19(1)(f), and 31. The petitioner contended that the statute violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution because it opposes equality before the law and equal protection under the law. In its decision, the court stated that businesses, like persons, can approach the court under Article 32 of the Constitution since they, too, are protected by basic rights.

The theory of eminent domain was used in this case, which states that the government has the authority to take ownership of private property and utilise it for public purposes without the owner's approval. Both of the prerequisites were satisfied since the land was used for the public good and the owner was compensated. Clause 1 of Article 31 is similarly immaterial in this case, according to the court.

In response to the question of equal protection under the law, the court decided that this does not imply that the same laws should be applied to all people in the country regardless of their circumstances or situations. However, no distinction should be made between two people. In this instance, the court also stated that companies and other organisations had basic rights.

Landmark Judgment (Article 14) State of Bombay v. FN Balsara

The legitimacy of the provisions of the Bombay Prohibition Act was called into doubt in this case. In this case, the idea of pith and substance was applied. The petitioner argued that the Bombay Prohibition Act violated Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution and hence ought to be repealed. Alcohol combined medications and cleaning items (such as toilet products) with alcohol content were forbidden from selling and buying under the Bombay Prohibition Act.

The petitioners' pleas were granted by the Honourable High Court. Some portions of the Act were found to be legal by the High Court, while others were found to be invalid. The petitioner, who was dissatisfied with the result, went to the Supreme Court and filed an appeal against the High Court's verdict.

The state government was entirely within its rights to ban the holding, selling, and use of drunk wine under list 2, according to the Supreme Court, therefore there was no disagreement. The court also stated that while some elements of the Act were unconstitutional, the entire Act could not be set down on this basis.

In light of the above-mentioned comments by several courts, it is obvious that Article 14 guarantees equality of rights without discrimination. It states that in the eyes of the law, everyone is equal. Regardless of his colour, religion, social rank, or financial standing.Finally, because our nation is democratic, we have been granted certain fundamental rights to all citizens, and we must guarantee that these rights are not infringed upon by anybody, even the state.

Even when so many legal obligations relating to it have been put forward by our court system, our constitution's right to equality is not being fully implemented. Our judiciary, along with the other two state institutions, is working extremely hard to ensure equality among all inhabitants of our nation.

However, eradicating inequality is impossible unless individuals are informed of their rights. Citizens' participation has become more important in the conservation of the environment.The right to equality had to be put into practise so that no one was denied their rights. Everyone, from Mahatma Gandhi to Bhim Rao Ambedkar, aspires to live in a country free of prejudice.

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