LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More


  • The preamble to our constitution, Chapter Three, discusses ensuring equality, liberty, and justice for all its residents.
  • The interpretation and application of Article 14 have evolved over time through various judicial pronouncements.
  • Article 14 guarantees that the state uses its power in an equitable, reasonable, and non-arbitrary manner.


India's Constitution mentions human rights, similar to the majority of democracies worldwide. Certain rights that are essential to our existence are accorded a unique standing. We refer to them as fundamental rights. The preamble to our constitution, Chapter Three, discusses ensuring equality, liberty, and justice for all its residents. Fundamental Rights implement this assurance. They are a crucial tenet of the Indian Constitution.

According to the Constitution, no Indian citizen shall be denied equality before the law or equal protection under the law. It implies that everyone is subject to the laws in the same way, irrespective of their standing. We refer to this as the rule of law. All democracies are built on the rule of law. It implies that everyone is subject to the law. It is impossible to distinguish between a government official, a political figurehead, and a regular person.

Every citizen is bound by the same rules, regardless of rank, from small farmers in a remote village to the prime minister. It is illegal for anyone to demand special treatment or privileges simply because they are a significant individual.

Fundamental Rights – The rights that defines us!

Articles 12-35 of the Indian Constitution deal with Fundamental Rights. These human rights are conferred upon the citizens of India and the Constitution tells that these rights are inviolable. Right to Life, Right to Dignity, Right to Education, etc. all come under one of the six main fundamental rights. All Indian people are entitled to fundamental rights, which are the fundamental human rights recognized in the Indian Constitution. They are implemented without regard to factors such as gender, colour, or religion. Importantly, the courts can uphold fundamental rights—if certain requirements are met.

The way that fundamental rights are upheld distinguishes them from regular legal rights. If a legal right is violated, the aggrieved person cannot directly approach the SC bypassing the lower courts. He or she should first approach the lower courts. 

While certain fundamental rights apply to all citizens, others are universally applicable to all people. There are limitations to fundamental rights. Due to their realistic limitations, they are governed by laws pertaining to public decency, morality, and state security as well as amicable ties with other nations. 

The Parliament may amend the Constitution to modify fundamental rights, but only if the alteration does not change the fundamental framework of the document. 

In the event of a national emergency, the Indian Constitution's Fundamental Rights may be suspended. However, Articles 20 and 21's guarantees of rights cannot be suspended. 

When martial law or military authority is imposed, there may be limitations on the application of fundamental rights.


The interpretation and application of Article 14 have evolved over time through various judicial pronouncements. Before the law, the idea of equality was once considered to indicate that no one should be given any special rights or be subjected to discrimination. Equal treatment under the law is another guarantee provided by the equal protection of laws principle, which applies to all people, regardless of their status or position.

The theory of classification—which permits the State to differentiate within acceptable bounds to accomplish societal objectives—is a key component of Article 14. However, the Supreme Court's set requirements must be met for such designation. 

Any classification must be based on understandable differentia and have a reasonable relationship to the goal that the legislation seeks to achieve, according to the traditional Nexus test, which was established in the Anwar Ali Sarkar case.

As objections to the Nexus test surfaced over time, Article 14 came to be interpreted in a more dynamic way. The Supreme Court progressively adopted a more aggressive and positivist stance, highlighting the idea that equality is incompatible with arbitrariness. This strategy, which was presented in court cases like E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu and Ajai Hasia v. Khalid Mujib, was centered on making sure that laws are not passed arbitrarily, and that equality is upheld.

  • In the landmark Maneka Gandhi case, the Supreme Court emphasized that Article 14 embodies a guarantee against arbitrariness. This new doctrine recognized the importance of reasonable classification while ensuring that governmental actions are not arbitrary or discriminatory.


A pillar of the essential rights that every person in India is entitled to is Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. It guarantees that everyone has the right to equality before the law and equal protection under the law, irrespective of their citizenship status. These ideas have important global and historical origins. Equal protection under the law and equality before the law form the basis of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This principle guarantees that every person has the right to fair and equal treatment under the law, irrespective of their rank, wealth, caste, creed, religion, gender, or socioeconomic background. 

Originating in English common law, the idea of "equality before law" emphasizes that all people should be bound by the same set of legal rules, regardless of their social standing, financial standing, or level of authority. This idea guarantees that everyone is subject to the law and that justice is served fairly.

Equality before the law, in Dr. Jennings' opinion, simply means that everyone must be treated equally when it comes to the application and enforcement of the law. All subjects of majority and maturity age must have the same right to sue and be sued for the same action, without distinction based on race, religion, caste, social standing, income, influence, or any other factor.

Exceptions to equality before law:

The Indian Constitution's Article 361 lists a few of these exclusions, which include the following: 

  • It is not the responsibility of any court to hold the President or a State Governor accountable for using their official authority. 
  • There shall be no criminal actions brought against the Governor or the President of a state. 
  •  No court may order the President or the Governor of a state to be arrested or imprisoned while they are in office. 
  • During their terms, the President or the Governor of a state may not be sued without providing two months' notice in advance in a civil action requesting relief.

Conversely, the phrase "equal protection of law" originates from the United States Constitution's 14th Amendment. This amendment forbids states from denying the equal protection of the law to anybody who is under their authority. This idea guarantees that the law is applied equally and without bias.

It is important to remember that Article 14 not only upholds these ideals but also conforms to the more expansive definition of equality stated in the Indian Constitution's preamble. In keeping with the goal of establishing a just and equitable society, the preamble places a strong emphasis on equality of position and opportunity. It basically indicates that there should be no discrimination among equals and that they should be treated equally. It is impossible to treat equals and unequals equally and without prejudice. 

  • In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950), the Indian Constitution's Article 22 was invoked to challenge preventive detention legislation. According to the Supreme Court, Article 14 upholds the English common law tradition's concept of equality before the law. It made it clear that "equality before the law" refers to all classes being equally subject to the ordinary law and not receiving any special treatment.
  • State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar (1952): In this decision, the Supreme Court made it clear that the equal protection of laws concept mandates that laws must apply consistently and equitably to all people in comparable circumstances. It was underlined that although the equal protection principle forbids discriminatory treatment, it does not require uniform treatment in cases where there are variations in conditions.


The nation's democratic and equitable foundation is fundamentally based on Article 14. There are multiple reasons for the necessity and foundation of Article 14:

  • The ideas of justice, equality, and freedom had a significant impact on India's fight for independence. The goal of the Constitution's framers was to create a society in which everyone is treated equally in front of the law, regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender, or socioeconomic background. To protect these ideals and make sure that India's independence from colonialism did not bring back the injustices of the past, Article 14 was created.
  • India has a complex social structure and is a diversified country. In the past, caste, religion, and gender have all been used as excuses to exclude and discriminate against specific groups within society.
  • In India, Article 14 is crucial to maintaining the rule of law. It guarantees that the state uses its power in an equitable, reasonable, and non-arbitrary manner. Article 14 guarantees that people are not treated unfairly and stops the state from acting arbitrarily by requiring equality before the law and equal protection under the law.
  • Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to equality, which is based on Article 14. It establishes the guidelines for interpreting and applying other rules pertaining to equality, including Articles 15, 16, and 17. Together, these clauses seek to end prejudice and advance equality in a range of contexts.
  • The Indian Constitution's preamble places a strong emphasis on justice, equality, liberty, and brotherhood. Article 14's promotion of equality before the law and equal protection under the law is in line with these fundamental principles. It shows how dedicated the Indian government is to create a fair and inclusive society in which each person has access to the same opportunities and rights.


The concept of justice is so old that it has been discussed extensively, but it is also so modern that it shapes the constantly shifting landscape of modern society. From this angle, we might argue that justice has two distinct meanings in modern society: a traditional meaning and a more sophisticated, technical meaning. Justice has historically been viewed as both a necessary and desirable quality for a democratic system and as a moral virtue of character. Justice, according to Plato, is "giving to each person his due." In this context, justice entails treating everyone equally, morally, and impartially.

To comprehend the notion of justice in the modern era, one must grasp that it is ingrained in the Indian Constitution's preamble. The Indian constitution's authors made sure that justice was included because they understood how important it was to establish justice in a nation. The concept of justice expressed in the preamble of the Indian constitution is also reflected in Articles 14, 15, 16, and 17. Part III of the constitution, which grants every citizen fundamental rights, incorporates all these articles.

Every Indian citizen is guaranteed the right to equality by Articles 14 through 18 of the Constitution. The general principles of equality before the law are embodied in Article 14, which also forbids unjustified discrimination between individuals. The Preamble's notion of equality is embodied in Article 14. The general guidelines outlined in Article 14 are specifically applied in the ensuing Articles 15, 16, 17, and 18. The ban on discrimination based on race, religion, caste, sex, or place of birth is covered in Article 15. Equality of opportunity in things pertaining to public employment is guaranteed by Article 16. 'Untouchability' is eliminated by Article 17. Title is abolished under Article 18.

Article 14 permits classification but prohibits class legislation.

Article 14's promise of equal protection under the law does not require all laws to have a universal nature. It does not follow that everyone should be subject to the same laws. This does not imply that all laws must be applied to all people because no two people are the same in terms of their circumstances or nature.

Different classes of people frequently need different kinds of care because of their differing demands. Different laws should apply in different regions due to the very nature of society, and the Legislature sets policy and passes laws that are best for the security and protection of the State. Therefore, if society is to advance, a decent classification is not only permissible but also essential.

Therefore, class-legislation is prohibited under Article 14, but fair classification is not. However, the categorization cannot be "arbitrary, artificial, or evasive"; rather, it must be founded on a true and meaningful distinction that has a fair and reasonable connection to the goal that the legislator is trying to accomplish. For a classification to be deemed reasonable, it must meet the subsequent two requirements:

The classification must be founded on the intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or thing that are grouped together from others left out of the group and the differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the act.

  • Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar: The Supreme Court explains equality before the law in this case. In this instance, the renowned "classification test" had been administered. In short, it allows the State to categorize subjects differently (which is otherwise forbidden by Article 14) if the classification is based on comprehensible differentia (i.e., objects in the class can be easily distinguished from those outside) and has a rational connection to the goal of the classification. 
  • Kedar Nath v. State of West Bengal: The Court's ruling concerned the presumption that the classification is reasonable, which is based on the idea that the Legislature can make a fair choice because it recognizes the public's need. The articles of the Fundamental Rights pertaining to the right to equivalency and reasonable classifications do not require that a classification be flawless or comprehensive based on rational or scientific reasoning.

If a law is created just for one person, then that one person alone will be covered by the law. Laws intended for a single individual are enforceable under Article 14. People tend to think that laws designed for a single person are discriminatory, but this is untrue; laws are legitimate provided they are sensible and have a reasonable connection.


At first, Article 14 was mainly concerned with guaranteeing equality before the law, taking its cue from the English common law system. However, the idea of equal protection under the law has been added to the ambit of Article 14 by judicial interpretation. This extension increased the scope of the right to equality and highlighted the importance of treating everyone equally before the law and without prejudice.

Theory of Reasonable Classification: Under Article 14, the Indian judiciary has acknowledged the reasonable classification theory as a valid justification for treating people differently. This concept states that the state is permitted to create appropriate categories for legislative purposes, provided that the classifications are based on comprehensible differentia and have a logical connection to the goal of the law. This approach guarantees that unequal treatment is not arbitrary nor discriminatory, while still permitting legislative flexibility.

Social and Economic Equality: The meaning of Article 14 has evolved over time to include substantive equality as well as formal equality before the law, especially when it comes to social and economic rights. The court has stepped in to make sure that state policies support social justice and substantive equality because it has acknowledged that socioeconomic disparities can sustain discrimination.

Affirmative Action: To rectify past injustices and advance social inclusiveness, affirmative action laws in India have been greatly influenced by Article 14. The judiciary has acknowledged the necessity of special provisions and reservations for disadvantaged groups, such Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, to assure their equal participation in society, while still respecting the ideal of equality.

Judicial Activism: Through judicial activism, the Indian court has taken the initiative to protect the right to equality under Article 14. Affirmative action has been mandated by the state to safeguard the rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups after courts have declared laws and policies that are discriminatory or arbitrary to be unconstitutional. Judges' rulings have strengthened the idea that the government must treat its citizens equally and impartially and have helped to shape the development of equality jurisprudence.

Since its creation, Article 14 has had substantial modifications and advancements that represent India's changing conception of justice and equality. The scope and applicability of Article 14 have been extended to address modern issues and advance a more inclusive and egalitarian society through judicial interpretation and legislative action. 

Article 14 and Transgender People's Rights: The Indian Supreme Court has also invoked Article 14 in recent years to defend the rights of transgender people. The Court has ruled that transgender people are entitled to equality and non-discrimination under Article 14 and that these rights apply to them.


Gender equality refers to giving men and women the same opportunities in all spheres of life, including the job, earning potential, and opportunities. Discrimination between men and women is unacceptable. A few significant articles that touch on the idea of equality are Articles 14, 15, 16, and 39 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 14 discusses the equality right. Ensuring equitable treatment of all Indian citizens before the law and preventing discrimination based on factors such as gender, caste, colour, or religion is a fundamental right. Women who are compelled to marry young find it difficult to further their education and find employment, which leaves them entirely dependent on men.

  • Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997): This case addressed sexual harassment at the workplace and established guidelines (Vishaka guidelines) to ensure gender equality and prevent sexual harassment. It recognized that dignity and equality of women are essential components of Article 14 and other fundamental rights.
  • Shayara Bano v UOI: In the Triple Talaq Case, the Supreme Court's five-judge bench decided on August 22, 2017, stating that the practice of immediate triple talaq, or Talaq-ul-biddat, was unconstitutional. The Bench noted that equality of status was a manifestation of the fundamental right to equality protected by Article 14 of the Constitution. According to Article 14, the values of gender equity, justice, and equality are inextricably linked to the protection of equality. It is completely incongruous with the language and spirit of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution to provide someone a social status based on patriarchal ideals, or a social status based on the kindness of males.


Even in the presence of laws protecting equality, it is still difficult to guarantee that everyone is treated equally. In many areas of life, discrimination persists based on caste, religion, gender, and socioeconomic class. Legal and cultural initiatives are necessary to address these systemic inequities to ensure the proper execution of Article 14.

The significant challenge of implementing Article 14 is posed by intersectional discrimination, which occurs when an individual experiences various forms of discrimination at the same time. Women, members of religious minorities, and LGBTQ+ people are examples of marginalized groups that frequently face compounded kinds of discrimination that limit their access to opportunities and rights. Intersectional discrimination must be addressed with a thorough and sophisticated strategy.

  • Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi (2009): In this case, the Delhi High Court decriminalized consensual homosexual acts between adults, stating that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code violated Article 14 by discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation.
  • Navtej Singh Jauhar v. UOI: The Indian Penal Code's Section 377, which outlawed same-sex relationships between consenting adults, was unanimously overturned by a five-judge Supreme Court bench. As of right moment, consensual sexual relations are legal for LGBT people. It was decided that the portion of Section 377 of the IPC violated same-sex couples' rights to equality. 

Human rights advocates, advocacy groups, and civil society organizations are essential in raising awareness of and pushing for the successful application of Article 14. These groups support the advancement of justice and equality in society through public interest lawsuits, advocacy campaigns, and research. The government, the judiciary, civil society, and the public must work together to effectively execute Article 14, even if it offers a strong framework for guaranteeing equality before the law and equal protection under the law. Ensuring equitable opportunities for all individuals and addressing systemic disparities are ongoing concerns that require constant attention and effort.



The essence of Article 14 is mirrored in the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution's 14th Amendment. To prevent discrimination and guarantee that everyone is treated fairly under the law, these articles forbid states from denying anybody living under their authority the equal protection of the law. Nevertheless, Article 14 targets a wider range of equality issues, including caste, religion, gender, and socioeconomic position, reflecting India's distinct socio-cultural background. The 14th Amendment, on the other hand, largely addressed racial discrimination following the Civil War.


Equality rights are guaranteed by Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which forbids discrimination based on racial, religious, and disability grounds. Like Article 14, Section 15 prioritizes the dignity and respect of every person, regardless of their qualities, and stresses equality before the law and equal protection under the law. In contrast to Article 14, which does not specifically address affirmative action but authorizes justifiable classification based on understandable differentia and rational connection, the Canadian Charter permits affirmative action measures.


In addition to preserving equality before the law, Section 9 of the South African Constitution forbids discrimination on several grounds, including race, gender, and religion. The goals of promoting diversity and opposing prejudice are shared by Article 14 and Section 9. Nevertheless, unlike Article 14, which does not particularly address affirmative action but permits fair classification based on understandable differentia and rational connection, the South African Constitution expressly acknowledges affirmative action measures to correct historical injustices.


One of the fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution, Article 14 is essential to defending the liberties and rights of Indian citizens. All Indian citizens are guaranteed equal protection under the law and equality before the law under Article 14, regardless of their gender, caste, creed, religion, or any other aspect of their personal identity. The Indian Supreme Court has invoked Article 14 to uphold the fairness and reasonableness standards in State action and to invalidate laws and practices that discriminate against and violate the right to equality.

The courts have construed and implemented the requirements of Article 14 to safeguard the rights of transgender individuals, minority groups, and equality as well as a fair trial. The fundamental tenets of equality and non-discrimination in Indian society would be strengthened by the courts' ongoing implementation and interpretation of Article 14.


"Loved reading this piece by Varsha Rajesh?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"

Tags :

Category Others, Other Articles by - Varsha Rajesh