Author: Pavitra Balgi, III year of B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Amity University, Mumbai
Equality is the state of being equal without discrimination and impartiality and biasness. It a status conferred upon individuals wherein their gender , social status , economical status, race , religion is not taken into consideration. All humans are of the same status, there is no inferior or superior person. In equality not treating everyone in the same way , but it is a process, if in which a person is put through the end result or outcome would be same and equal for all. This process might be different for different but the end result will always be the same.
The rights dealing with equality are given from Article 14 to Article 18 in the Indian Constitution. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution:- Equality before the law and equal protection before the law.
This right was originally considered as a negative right of a person since it includes that one should not be discriminated with respect to public offices or public places. A negative right basically meaning giving freedom to an individual to do or not to do some action. For example one should not be restricted due to gender for accessing a public park. This was the original concept of equality which did not take into consideration the other aspects of inequality. Article 14 is conferred upon everyone be it a citizen or a non-citizen. The equality before law and equal protection of law is for all within the territory in India.
In State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar,, Chief Justice Patanjali Shastri had quoted that , there cannot be any violation of law in absence of equal protection before the law. However the courts have concluded that there is nothing much common between them. The term law “ Equality before law” means that everybody will be treated the same when an law is applied whereas law in “ Equal protection of Laws” mean specific laws made for specific individuals. Various jurists have also said that the concept of equality in dynamic and ever changing in nature.
The application of this article is for the all the natural persons iemale , female and also transgenders. Article 14 does not discrimination against any person sexual identity and orientation.
Principle behind Article 14
No two individuals are the same is a known fact other than belonging to the homo sapiens. Comparison between individuals can only be done when both the individuals are at the same position or of same status. When comparison is done between individuals of different status or financial position etc , it gives rise to inequality. The main propagation by this article is that there should be equality between the equals. Comparison between purchasing power of a person with salary of Rs 10,000 per month and purchasing power of a person with salary of Rs 1,00,000 cannot be said to be equal since one will spend with accordance to his income. Article 14 suggests that there is no uniformity in equality , to attain equality, comparison has to be done between equals. There is a differentiation which must be done between the equals and un-equals.
Since the principle of equality means that comparison must be done amongst equals and not un-equals , from this it can be concluded safely that it doesn’t mean universal application of law. It can be derived that the application of certain laws require one to fit in the particular category in which it is dealing with. For example laws related to lawyers with respect to their code of conduct and their qualification cannot be applicable to doctors. It is necessary for such classification to be made. Different laws are applicable to different classes of people for the purpose of public welfare. In the case of  Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of West Bengal , the Supreme Court held that equal protection doesn’t mean same laws should be applied to everyone , it means laws are classified with accordance to people, their profession etc and also that the State doesn’t have any authority to classify for the purpose of legislation.
The legislative classification made must be reasonable and should have proper substance with regards to the classification made, without reason if some classification is made them it will be deemed to be arbitrary and increase the inequality between masses. There are two conditions which must be satisfied while making such classifications
Classification on the basis of intelligible differentia
The relation with the differentia made and statute must be rationale
For example in Indian Contract Act , section 11 specifies that minor cannot enter into contract, in this case the differentia is made on the basis of age. The reason being the minor does not have the capacity to give consent. So there are two groups made ie minors and majors with respect to age to enter into a contract
3. The classification must be lawful and in good faith.
The article 14 allows the classification or bifurcation but disregards and disallows the classes created by legislation. The article suggests that the laws may not be general or the same law shall be applicable irrespective of the circumstance or situation. There is no uniformity in it. The people belonging to the classes made should be treated in the same way. These classifications are also made with the view of protecting and regulating the state affairs. Therefore the classification according to this article should be reasonable and not vague.
Provisions regarding women , children , scheduled caste and scheduled tribes
The article 14 considered everybody equal before the law . But nothing stops or restricts the State to make laws or provisions with respect to women , children , scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.
For example the section 497 of Indian Penal Code suggests that the offence of adultery can be committed only by men and not women. With consideration to the women’s status in the society , the law was clearly made by the state for women and is justified.
In the case of State of madras v. Champakamdorairajan, there were certain seats in the medical and engineeering colleges reserved for students belonging to the some particular community. The court held that the particular classification is not justified since it was making classification on the basis of some caste or religion. After this case the clause 4 of article 15 was inserted which confers the government to prepare certain provisions for the people of social and economic backward classes for their enrichment in the fields of education and also the scheduled tribes and scheduled tribes.
Expanding horizons of equality
In the case of E.PRoyappa v. state of Tamil Nadu, the judges said that equality is a very dynamic and ever changing concept which cannot be subdued for restricted from growing. It is conferred upon the citizen to protect them against the arbitrary actions and decisions of the state. This is the rudimentary principle of equality.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the judges regarding the procedures established by law said that article 14 is given to control arbitrary actions of the state and make sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly. The principle of reasonableness is also equally essential in such cases.
There are multiple of cases which show the expanding horizons and interpretations of the term equality under article 14. The term equality is now not only restricted to its generic meaning of being equal. It has also evolved and is applicable under various circumstance and will continue growing with the modernisation