RIGHT TO EQUALITY ( ARTICLE 14-18 )

by | Nov 11, 2023

Unveiling the Tapestry of Equality: A Deep Dive into the Right to Equality in the Indian Constitution

Equality stands as a cornerstone in the edifice of the Indian Constitution, woven intricately into its fabric to foster a society where fairness and justice prevail. The constitutional provisions from Article 14 to Article 18 lay the groundwork for the multifaceted concept of equality.

Article 14: Equality before the Law

Case Study: State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar (1952)

The Anwar Ali Sarkar case laid the foundation for the principle of equality before the law. The Supreme Court ruled that laws must be general and equal in their application, prohibiting arbitrary classification. This landmark case established the concept that equals should be treated equally.

Recent Development: Anti-Discrimination Laws and Digital Equality

In the contemporary context, legal frameworks addressing discrimination have expanded to cover various spheres, including digital spaces. The rise of anti-discrimination laws seeks to ensure equal treatment in online platforms, addressing the challenges posed by the digital divide.

Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination

Case Study: Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973)

Explanation: Kesavananda Bharati case emphasised that Article 15 prohibits both vertical and horizontal discrimination. It reinforced the idea that the state should not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, fostering an inclusive and egalitarian society.

Recent Development: Gender Equality and Workplace Discrimination

Recent legislative measures and judicial pronouncements focus on promoting gender equality and preventing discrimination in the workplace. This includes laws addressing sexual harassment and promoting equal opportunities for all genders.

Article 16: Equality of Opportunity in Public Employment

Case Study: Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992)

Explanation: The Mandal Commission case highlighted the importance of affirmative action for socially and educationally backward classes in public employment. The Supreme Court upheld the concept of reservation as a means to achieve substantive equality and social justice.

Recent Development: Reservation Policies and Social Justice

Ongoing debates and policy changes in reservation systems reflect the evolving understanding of social justice. Recent developments include efforts to reassess and recalibrate reservation policies to address emerging challenges and ensure equitable representation.

Article 17: Abolition of Untouchability

Case Study: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar vs. Mahatma Gandhi

Explanation: While not a legal case, the views of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi on untouchability influenced the framing of Article 17. Both leaders advocated for the abolition of untouchability, acknowledging its deep-seated roots and societal implications.

Recent Development: Combating Caste Discrimination

Efforts to combat caste discrimination extend beyond legal frameworks, involving social movements and awareness campaigns. Recent developments include initiatives to address the persisting challenges of caste-based discrimination and untouchability.

Article 18: Abolition of Titles

Article 18 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the conferment of titles, and any title that has already been conferred is not recognized. This provision is rooted in the principle of equality, aiming to prevent the creation of distinctions or privileges based on titles.

Case Study: Balaji Raghavan vs. Union of India (1996)

In the case of Balaji Raghavan vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court reiterated the significance of Article 18. The petitioner challenged the practice of conferring honorific titles by the government, arguing that it violated the spirit of equality. The Court upheld the constitutional intent behind Article 18, emphasising that no titles should be conferred by the State, ensuring a level playing field for all citizens.

Recent Scenario: Controversy Surrounding Civilian Awards

In recent years, debates have arisen regarding the conferment of civilian awards and whether they amount to titles in violation of Article 18. The controversy revolves around concerns that such awards may create distinctions and privileges contrary to the constitutional mandate. While the awards themselves are not hereditary titles, the discussions underscore the need for ongoing scrutiny to ensure they align with the principles of equality enshrined in Article 18.

 

Article Key Provisions Key Facts
Article 14
  • Equality before the law.
  • Equal protection under the law 
  • Prohibition discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth
  • Rooted in the Rule of Law 
  • British and American constitutional influences
  • Upheld in cases like Ashutosh Gupta vs. State of Rajasthan (2002)
Article 15
  • NO discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth 
  • Exceptions for special provisions benefiting women, children, socially and educationally underprivileged segments, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes
  • Amended by the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act (2005) to introduce reservations for socially backward classes in education
Article 16
  • Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
  • Provisions for reservations up to 10% for economically weaker sections.
  • Reservations for backward classes not adequately represented
Article 17
  • Abolition of untouchability.
  • Practice of untouchability is illegal
  • Integral part of eradicating social discrimination.
Article 18
  • Abolition of titles except academic and military.
  • Citizens prohibited from accepting titles from foreign states.
  • Awards like Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Bharat Ratna exempted
  • Reflects rejection of British imperial honors.

 

Type of Equality Description
Social Equality Experience equal status and opportunities, transcending caste, religion, or social distinctions, fostering an inclusive society.
Civil Equality Enjoy equal civil rights and liberties, safeguarding against discrimination based on gender, religion, or place of birth.
Economic Equality Strive for a balanced distribution of wealth and resources, promoting economic fairness and addressing disparities among citizens.
Natural Equality Embrace the inherent equality of all individuals from birth, recognizing equal moral worth and intrinsic value.
Political Equality Ensure equal participation and representation in political processes, empowering citizens to engage in shaping the nation’s governance.
Legal Equality Demand equal treatment under the law, prohibiting discrimination on various grounds such as religion, race, or gender in the pursuit of justice.

 

In essence, the Right to Equality, entrenched in the Indian Constitution, emerges as a fundamental pillar fostering justice and inclusivity. From the bedrock principles of equal protection under the law to its nuanced applications in various spheres, this right embodies the nation’s dedication to treating every citizen with dignity, devoid of discrimination. As our legal landscape evolves, so does the Right to Equality, adapting to contemporary challenges and reaffirming the constitutional commitment to safeguarding fundamental rights. Embracing social, economic, political, and legal equalities, this right serves as a guiding beacon for a progressive and equitable nation. In navigating the intricacies of a diverse society, recognizing and celebrating the myriad forms of equality woven into our constitutional fabric becomes paramount. Upholding the Right to Equality collectively ensures that these principles resonate in the daily lives of individuals, fostering a harmonious and genuinely egalitarian society.

Written By Vishakha Khatri

My name is Vishakha Khatri. I am an engineering graduate and a civil service aspirant with a passion for spreading knowledge about Indian polity. I believe that understanding our political system is crucial for every citizen, and I am committed to making this information accessible to everyone in my own easy way. Through my experiences in civil service preparation and my unique perspective as an engineering graduate, I hope to inspire and educate others on the importance of Indian polity.

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