Present in Part III of the Indian Constitution, Articles 14, 19 and 21 form ‘The Golden Triangle’ of the Indian Constitution. All three of these articles are essential to understand the fundamental rights and the basic structure of the Constitution of India. This piece talks about the important landmark judgements regarding Article 14 of the Constitution. Basically, Article 14 provides for equality before law and equal protection before law and states that the state shall not make any laws which are discriminatory or arbitrary towards any person or group of persons. These landmark cases will help in understanding the multi-dimensional nature of the Article and how it has evolved over the years.
This was one of the earliest landmark cases dealing with Part 3 of the constitution of India. In this case the Supreme Court interpreted the fundamental rights present in the Indian Constitution under Part III. In this case, the question before the court was weather the Detention Act of Madras was violative of article 14, article 19, and article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court held in its judgement that none of the sections of the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 are violative of provisions of part 3 of the Indian Constitution apart from section 14 of the act and restrictions of the declaration on the grounds of detention. Section 14 of the preventive detention act was declared unconstitutional, and it was struck down, but this did not affect the validity of the act as a whole. The court also held in this case that the word "Law" used under Article 21 of the Constitution means procedural due process. The court held that Gopalan's detention was lawful even though some of his fundamental rights were violated under section 14, 19, and 21. The Court also observed that same words used in two different provisions cannot be understood in the same light. The court said that the words "procedure established by law" does not amount to "due process". The judgement of the court in this case was however overruled in the year 1977, in the case of Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India.
The question before the court was that weather the act in question was in contravention with Articles 14, 19(1)(f), and 31 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner claimed that the enactment rejects equality before law and equal protection of the law and therefore it is against Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. The court in its judgement held that not only individuals but companies can also approach the court under Article 32 of the Constitution as these companies also have protection under fundamental rights. The doctrine of Eminent Domain was applied in this case where the state has the power to take possession of the property and use it for public purpose even without the permission of the owner. Both the conditions were met as the property was used for public good and the payment of compensation was made to the owner. The court also observed that clause 1 of Article 31 is irrelevant in the present case. Answering the question of equal protection before law, the court held that this does not mean that same laws should be made applicable for all the persons within the country in spite of different circumstances and conditions. However, there should be no discrimination between two persons. The court also observed in this case that corporations and other entities also have fundamental rights.
In this case, the validity of provisions of Bombay Prohibition Act was in question. The doctrine of pith and substance was applied in this case. The petitioner pleaded that Bombay Prohibition Act was violative of Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and thus, it must be struck down. Provision under the Bombay Prohibition Act stated that alcohol mixed medicines and cleaning goods (like toilet products) having alcohol contents in it were prohibited from selling and buying. The Honourable High Court agreed with the petitioners’ prayers. The High Court held that some provisions of this Act were valid, and some were invalid. Aggrieved with the decision, the petitioner moved before the Supreme Court filing an appeal against the High Court's decision. The Supreme Court observed that the state legislature is well within its right to prohibit keeping, selling, and using intoxicated wine under list 2 therefore there was no dispute. The court also observed that some provisions were invalid, but the complete Act cannot be struck down on this basis.
To conduct speedy trials for certain offences, the West Bengal Special Courts Act,1950 was introduced in 1950. In the Act, provisions mentioned in Section 3 empowered the state government to form such Special Courts, and under Section 5 of the same act the special courts were given power to try such offences according to the orders of state government. The constitutionality of Section 5 was challenged in this case on the ground that no clear classification can be made between different offences under this act and the fact that the State government has powers to interfere with the judicial proceedings. The Supreme Court struck down the act stating the reason that it gives arbitrary powers to the government to classify offences at its pleasure and violates reasonable classification principle vested under article 14 of the constitution. Furthermore, no clear policy or guideline was mentioned in the act for classification of these offences. There was a necessity of speedy trial, but the provisions mentioned were very vague and uncertain and there was need for reasonable classification of offences. This was one of the initial cases to lay down the basic principles incorporated in article 14 of the constitution.
In the year 2006, the West Bengal government agreed to let Tata Motors build and operate a car manufacturing unit in the state. As a result, for this project they acquired approximately 1,000 acres of agricultural land under the land acquisition act. The livelihood of approximately 25,000 people was affected. After huge protest, compensations were given to some to those people. When a new Act was passed regarding land acquisition, Tata Motors challenged the constitutionality of the new Act before the Supreme Court arguing that it conflicts with the earlier land acquisition act. The Court however rejected Tata Motors plea and stated that the state legislature can change its laws. The court further held that the land that was previously acquired by Tata Motors was not for public purpose and the present government exercised its eminent domain. The Court quashed the acquisition of landowners and declared it illegal and void ordering the Government of Bengal to conduct a survey on what land needed to be returned. The court also ordered that the compensation that has already been paid to the landowners shall not be returned and shall serve as a penalty for the company.
In this famous case law, the Supreme Court of India describes and defines the jurisprudence of equality before law under Article 14 of Indian Constitution. The very popular "classification test" was given while delivering the judgement in this case. In simple words it means that this principle allows the states to make differential classification of subjects
(which would generally be restricted by the provisions of Article 14) provided that such a classification is made on the basis of intelligible differentia (which in simple words mean that objects within the class are clearly distinguishable from those objects which are outside such class) and there must be a presence of rational nexus with the objective which is sought to be achieved by such classification. The Court held this while determining if the statute is valid or is in violation of Article 14. The Court also held that the onus of proof that any law is violative of the Constitution lies upon one who asserts that. And a general presumption has to be made that any law was passed by the legislature was made in good faith as well as knowledge of existing circumstances.
When it comes to constitutional cases and cases on reservation in India this judgement cannot be neglected as it is one of the most important cases in both the areas. In this case the bench while delivering the judgement interpreted the relationship between Article 14 and Article 16. This case recognised right to equality as a basic feature of the Indian Constitution and the Court held that Article 14 applies to all persons and is not restricted only to the citizens of the country. It was held that Article 16 (1) is an aspect of Article 14. Just like Article 14, Article 16 also provides reasonable classification, and such classification may involve reservation of seat or vacancies. The fundamental principle of both these articles is equality and equality of opportunity. The under-question clause 4 of Article 16 is only a means to achieve the same goal of equality. Both the provisions need to be harmonized and equality shall not be neglected.
This was one of the earliest cases which provided a test for Article 14. The test which was introduced in this case was referred to as the "new doctrine" or "the arbitrariness test" and was pronounced in the judgement by Justice Bhagwati. The court in its judgement held that there was absence of any ground for a conclusion to be reached that the government had bad faith or improper motive against the petitioner. The test which was introduced states that the equality guaranteed under article 14 includes a guarantee against arbitrariness against any state action. This test was later entertained by various courts including the supreme court despite its vague ideas on the time of formulation. And the principle laid down in this judgement have helped in guiding a number of cases against state actions as a proper test was now in place to test whether the state action is violative of fundamental right of equality which is guaranteed under article 14 of the Indian Constitution or not.
In this case, the constitutional validity of the 39th amendment of Constitution, 1975 was challenged. The claims were made that this amendment was violative of Article 14 of the constitution as it did not pass the 'classification test' and also destroys the basic structure of the constitution. It was the first landmark judgement in which the principles laid down in the case of Kesavananda Bharti case were applied. The court found Clause 4 of Article 329A to be unconstitutional. The court further added that this clause damages the democratic feature of the constitution and violates the basic features of the constitution. The bench found this amendment to be violative of the principle of Separation of Power as it deliberately transferred a completely judicial function into the hands of legislature. Also, this amendment is also violative of Article 14 as it presents an unequal position for several persons against others. Therefore, on these grounds, the court struck down the 39th amendment of 1975 finding it unconstitutional and violative of Basic Structure of the Constitution.
Article 14 Landmark Judgement no #10 Maganlal Chagganlal Pvt Ltd vs Municipal Corporation of Gr. Bombay
This case was much needed when it comes to Article 14 of the Constitution because while delivering the judgement in this case the court provided the much-needed clarification to the "reasonable classification test" which helped in a better understanding of the test. In this case the court may declare distinction between the statutes which make a classification themselves and those statutes which make a classification which is authorised to the executive. In the case where the classification is made by the statute itself the statute will be held invalid if it fails to meet the reasonable classification test. The other case where the classification is made by executive given authority if guidelines are provided in such statute (be it either express or implied) to the executive to make such classification and if the executive fails the test of reasonable classification, then action will be invalid and not the complete statute itself.
This is one of the most important judgements when it comes to cases related to Constitution. In this case a seven-judge bench discussed the question on violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 and stated that all these articles have to be read together to be understood and hold a very special place in the Constitution of India. And if any law interferes with the personal liberty of an individual, it must satisfy the following three points - (a) there must be a prescribed procedure, (b) the prescribed procedure shall withstand the test of one or more rights guaranteed under Article 19 in a given situation and (c) it must also be tested with Article 14. And the law in question interfering with personal liberty of an individual must also be just and fair and it shall not be discriminatory or arbitrary.
The Supreme Court in this case had warned the legislation against over emphasising on the process of classification under equality. The court also observed that the doctrine of classification is a secondary or ancillary rule which has been used by the various courts to facilitate the doctrine of equality. And if there is an undue emphasis upon the doctrine of classification, it would without any doubt result in in the doctrine of equality under Article 14 to erode. And this over in fishes will result in substitution of the doctrine of equality by doctrine of classification. The court held that this was a serious inroad on the independence of the judiciary and should be fraught with serious consequences. It was therefore necessary to be put down otherwise it would have given rise to a prospect to gruesome to investigate and too dangerous to be allowed to have the sanction of law. Ultimately the court held that clause 5 and 7 of the bill are constitutionally invalid and hence, struck down.
In this landmark case the Supreme Court explained the new dimensions of equality under Article 14. Justice Bhagwati held that the rule of law pervades the complete fabric of the Indian Constitution and Article 14 helps in excluding arbitrariness of any shape or form. The Court also held in this case that whenever there is any arbitrariness there is also a denial of rule of law. The Court also held that rule of law and equality before law is one of the strongest provisions of a democratic country. In the judgement the Court also held that every action by the state shall be free from arbitrariness otherwise if the court finds it arbitrary it will strike the act as unconstitutional. The Court also held that this is the new scope of Article 14 and it is far greater than just being equated with the principles of reasonable classification.
This case was brought forward when Air India rules were regulated and it was made mandatory that a female attendant need to retire under these circumstances - (a) upon completion of 35 years of age, (b) upon getting married, or (c) upon their first pregnancy. It should also be noted that before these amendments the retirement age for male attendants was 58 and the retirement age of female attendants was 50. When petition was brought before the Supreme Court regarding these rules the Supreme Court observed that the same rules were not applicable to male attendants. As a result, the Supreme Court struck down the rules stating that these requirements are clear examples of official arbitrariness and hostile discrimination and it is a clear violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In this case, the petitioner applied for admission in a college for the course of B.E. in response to an admission notice issued by the college. There was a hundred mark written test as well as an interview of 50 marks. As the petitioner was denied admission a contested before the court that this was violative of Article 14 on the grounds that the admission process was arbitrary as marks obtained by the candidates were ignored. He also claimed that relying on a viva interview and allocating 50 marks for it was arbitrary in nature as it only took place for 2-3 minutes. The Court held that, the test for determining if an institution or authority falls within the definition of state under the ambit of Article 12 is whether it is an instrumentality or agency of the government. And the fact that weather the corporation is created by a statue is immaterial. This test is also applicable for companies and societies. The court also relied upon the test laid down in the case of RD Shetty. The court held that the society of the college is registered under Jammu and Kashmir Registration of Societies Act. Hence, it does fall within the meaning of Article 12.
In this case, a rule of Central Services Rule was challenged, under which a classification was being made between the pensioners who retired before a given date and the pensioners who retired after such date. The court held that such classification was arbitrary and was violative under Article 14. This classification is a clear violation of right to equality of the individuals who come under the ambit of this Act. As a result, the Supreme Court in this case struck down rule 34 of the Central Services Rules declaring it violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and thus unconstitutional.
The petitioners who had been sentenced to death for the offence of murder were awaiting execution of the sentence. Their plea was that hanging by rope is a cruel and barbarous method of executing of the sentence and Section 354(5) Cr. P.C. which prescribes that method, is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The respondent contended that a sentence lawfully imposed by a court can and has to be fulfilled, though by causing the least pain and suffering and by avoiding torture or degradation of any kind; that the method prescribed by Section 354(5), Cr. P.C. for executing the death sentence is a humane and dignified method involving the least amount of pain and cruelty; that no other method of executing the death sentence is quicker or less painful; and that Article 14 or 21 does not postulate that no pain or suffering whatsoever shall be caused in the execution of a sentence lawfully imposed by a court, including the sentence of death.
In India, the mode of execution of death sentence is hanging. Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code provides that when any prisoner is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead. Hanging is still the most common method of executing convicts. The issue regarding the constitutionality of the Section 354 first came up before the Supreme Court in this case. Though the Court asserted that it was a judicial function to investigate into the reasonableness of a mode of punishment, it refused to hold the mode of hanging as being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.
The court held that Section 354(5) of the I.P.C., which prescribed hanging as a mode of fair execution which is just and reasonable procedure within the meaning of Articles 14 and 21 and hence is constitutional. Although, death by shooting is contemplated under the Army Act, Navy Act and Air Force Act. They provide for the discretion of the Court Martial to either provide for the execution of the death sentence by hanging or by being shot to death.
The petitioners in this case challenged the import duty levied on newsprint under the Customs Tariff Act 1975 and the auxiliary duty under the Finance Act 1981, as modified by orders and notifications under the Customs Act 1962 with effect from March of 1981. Prior to this order, newsprint had enjoyed exemption from customs duty.
The petitioners contended that the imposition of these duties and taxes had a negative effect on costs and circulation and, therefore, had a crippling effect on freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. They also submitted that the classification of newspapers into small, medium, and large newspapers violated the principle of non-arbitrariness guaranteed under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. The bench observed that the newspaper industry had not been granted exemption from taxation in express terms and that the presence of entry 92 of List I of the Schedule Seven of the Constitution of India empowered the Parliament to levy taxes on the sale and purchase of the newspapers.
The court also referred to the amendment of the Constitution of USA and observed that while the freedom of press in that country was almost absolute, still the American courts recognized the power of the government to levy taxes on the newspaper establishments.
The Court also noted that as long as the tax is within reasonable limits and does not contravene the limitations of Article 19(2), it is constitutional, instead of quashing the impugned legislation, the Court directed the Government to carefully reconsider within six months the entire process of the levy of import duty or auxiliary duty payable by the petitioners.
This case was brought forward after the horrendous incident of Bhopal Gas leak disaster of 1984. There was a massive leakage of the methyl isocyanate gas from the company gas plant which led to death of nearly 3000 inhabitants of the city and many more were severely injured. The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 was passed by the Government of India as a result of this disaster. Through this Act, the government wanted the legal claims arising out of the Bhopal Gas leak case to be dealt speedily, effectively, and equitably. Charan Lal Sahu, who was a practicing advocate in Bhopal High Court, questioned the constitutional validity of this act. The petitioner claimed that the Act in question is violative under Article 14, Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and also violative of principles of natural justice. The Supreme Court held that the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 was constitutionally valid. The court also held the view that till the proceedings and adjudication process continues and until the claims are obtained or realised from the delinquents, that is, Union Carbide Company or Union Carbide India Limited; the interim compensation to the victims is to be paid by the Central Government.
In this case the petitioner challenge notification issued by the Karnataka Government that permitted private medical colleges to charge higher fees from students who were not allocated government seats on the name of ‘capitation fee’ as it was violative of Equality guaranteed under article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
The court held that even if the Right to Education was not explicitly guaranteed under the constitution as a fundamental right, it is essential to the fulfilment of the fundamental right to life and human dignity under article 21 of the constitution. The supreme court held that the charging of this capitation fee by private education institutions violated the right to education as inferred from right to life and human dignity and the right to equal protection of law under article 21 and 14 of the constitution, respectively. The right to life under article 21 and the dignity of an individual cannot be assured unless it is accompanied by the right to education. The state government is under an obligation to make endeavours to provide educational facilities at all levels to its citizen. Capitation fee is nothing but a price for selling of education the concept of 'teaching shops' is contrary to the constitutional scheme of this country and is wholly abhorrent of the Indian culture and heritage. Such a provision is a clear violation of equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the constitution.
The two concepts of "equality before law" and "equal protection of law" have a different meaning this was first observed by the Supreme Court in this case. In this judgement the court held that the expression equality before law means that the state has an obligatory duty to restrain from preforming any act which is discriminatory in nature. Both these expressions however make the provisions of equal treatment binding on the state. The supreme court explained in this case that both these expressions might appear to be same, but they have very different meanings. The term equality before law is a very dynamic concept with various aspects within itself. One such aspect present in the provision of equality before law is that there should be an absence of any privilege for a person against law or a person being above the law. The court also observed that the term equal protection of law was introduced in the 14th amendment of the Constitution of United States of America and it states that there should not be any privileges or favouritism towards any person or any group of persons.
In this case, the doctrine of legitimate expectations was clearly explained by the Supreme Court. The court held in this case that the duty to act fairly on part of public authorities and entitles every citizen or person must have legitimate expectations to be treated in fair and just manner and such an expectation must be given due importance and such expectations of fair treatment should be satisfied. The requirements of such fair treatment and non-arbitrariness in state action or otherwise if not satisfied would amount to abuse of power. Further, the court also made a significant point stating that such reasonable/legitimate expectations may not be expressly or directly enforceable legal right but failure in taking into amount may deem a decision arbitrary in nature. The fact that the expectations are legitimate or not must be decided on a case-to-case basis.
This is a case which deals with the unfortunate sexual harassment of women at workplace. This case was brought forward when Banvari Devi, a social worker in Rajasthan tried to stop a child marriage in the state but in her attempt while doing so she was gangraped in front of her husband. Later when she reported the case she was treated very poorly by the medical officials and the police officers. When the accused was released from the jail, a PIL was filed before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court while delivering its judgement held that Sexual Harassment violates the fundamental rights of a woman of gender equality which is guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and it is also violative of article 21 (Right to have a dignified life). The Supreme Court observed that even though there are no express provisions provided in the constitution for protection against sexual harassment, but it is protected in various fundamental rights. The court also held that a safe working environment especially for women should be a prerequisite for any work or job.
In the year 2012, the National Legal Services Authority, which is an Indian statutory body set up to give legal representation to marginalised sectors of the society, filed a Writ Petition before the Supreme Court. The petition prayed for a legal declaration of their gender identity other than the one which is assigned at the birth. The petitioners name that such non recognition of their gender identity is violative of the rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioners wanted recognition for people falling outside the male-female gender binary and including persons who identify as "third gender". While noting the fact that such transgender people are subjected to extreme discrimination in all the spheres of society. The court in its judgement held that right to equality which is guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution was framed in gender neutral terms (i.e., all persons). As a result, the right to equality would extend to transgender persons also.
This case was brought forward when a petition was filed against the custom of restricting women in their menstruation years from entering in the Sabarimala temple. With a 4:1 majority, the Supreme Court ruled that the temple's restriction upon women between the ages of 10 to 50 from entering the temple is violative of the fundamental rights of women guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court further struck down the rule and held that Rule 3(b) of the Public Worship Rules was unconstitutional. Justice Indu Malhotra presenting a dissenting opinion said that in a secular country, courts shall not interfere with the affairs of temples and such matters should be left to those practicing the religion. More than 50 review petitions were filed in response to the judgment of the Supreme Court, a few are still pending before the court for the final review.
In this landmark case a five-judge bench (with 3:2 majority) announced its decision in the triple talaq case, finally clarifying that such a practice was unconstitutional. This decision was delivered on 22nd August 2017. The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court observed that the fundamental right to equality was guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution also demands an equality of status. Values which are incorporated under Article 14 include gender equality and gender justice as well. The enforcing of such traditions of social status based on rigid patriarchal values or which are based on mercy of men is absolutely incompatible with the spirit of Article 14, Article 15, and Article 21 of Indian Constitution. The majority bench also held that triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) is upfront unconstitutional and arbitrary as it provides the husband to irrefutably divorce his wife by saying the word talaq 3 times in succession. It was also held that triple talaq was also against the religious text of Quran.
On 8th August 2018, the Supreme Court deliver this judgement. In this case, the court address the petition which was filed seeking basic Human Rights for beggars, the bench comprising of Justices Gita Mittal and Hari Shankar held that some provisions of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 are unconstitutional as it criminalises begging. The bench while delivering the judgement also stated that the state government is well withing their rights to bring in an alternate legislation in order to shut down the multiple rackets of ‘forced begging’ in the state. The court also clarified that the complete act does not need to be struck down because it does not directly or indirectly criminalize begging only certain provisions will be scraped off. Ultimately, various of the provisions of the act were decriminalized as they violated Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution and around 25 such Sections were struck down. The court further held that begging is not any disease, and such a thinking has led to stigmatization towards it and ultimately criminalization in the society. It was also held that criminalising begging is a direct attack on the fundamental rights of the poorest people in the country and it is violative of their basic necessities like food and shelter.
In this case, the question before the Court was whether Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises adultery is sexist in nature. The five-judge bench with full majority struck down the section of the IPC and decriminalized adultery. The section was struck down on the ground that it was violative of Article 14, Article 15, and Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court observed that Section 497 of the IPC is archaic and paternalistic law which infringes a woman's autonomy and dignity in a very cruel way. In this case the bench overruled the judgements which were delivered in the cases of Sowmithri Vishnu and Y Abdul Aziz in which the constitutionality of Section 497 was earlier proven valid by the court.
In this case a petition was filed by Navtej Singh Johar, who was a dancer by profession challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on the grounds that it was violative of constitutional Right to Privacy (Article 21), Freedom of Expression (Article 19), Equality (Article 14), Human dignity, etc. While delivering the judgement, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court with full majority, struck down Section 377 of the IPC but only to an extent that same-sex relationships between two consenting adults were now decriminalized. And from now on in the country LGBT individuals are legally allowed to engage in consensual intercourse. The provisions of the section which was struck down were held violative of article 14 as it was against equality for the same sex couples. Justice Malhotra while delivering the judgement stated that homosexuality is not an abbreviation, but merely a variation of sexuality (page no. 445). Justice Chandrachud held that the law cannot discriminate against same-sex relationships, but it must take positive steps to achieve an equal protection and to grant the community and all individuals are subject to equal treatment before law, protected under article 14 of the constitution (para. 7 on page no. 270).
After understanding all these landmark cases of Article 14 it can be understood how the article has evolved over the years and what comes under its ambit. Various courts of the country have helped in deciding the true meaning of the article and the protection it gives to the citizens of the country. Equality before law is one of the most basic fundamental rights present in any democratic country. The scope of this article has been changing over the years and becoming broader and broader in nature and it is fair to expect that the scope of Article 14 will continue to expand in the future as well.