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Indian Polity / Fundamental Rights

Importance of Right to Equality in India

Equality is nothing but prohibiting inequality and discrimination of any type. Articles 14 to 18 of the Constitution deal with the importance of Right to equality in India.

Articles of Right to Equality

  • Article 14 says no person shall be deprived of his right to equality before law or equal protection of law. Equality before law implies that there must be a single law for the entire country. All the persons are subjected to the same law.

    They are equally accountable irrespective of their rank and status for their omissions and commissions. However, there are certain exceptions to the Equality before law in India like President, Governor, Foreign dignitaries.

    Article 14 provides for classifying the people while applying the law but there will not be any class legislation. That is there will be an equal protection of law, which implies a positive meaning or affirmation.

    That means among equals the law should be applied equally and among the unequals, if there exists unequal conditions, law should strictly be applied unequally.

  • Article 15 says no person should be discriminated only on the basis of race, caste, sex, religion and place of birth. Moreover, all public utilities like restaurants, shops, hotels, roads, wells, tanks, etc. should be open to all without any discrimination.

    However for women, children and socially and educationally backward people, the Government can make some provisions.

  • Article 16 says in the matters of public employment, citizens should not get differentiated on the basis of race, caste, place of birth, religion, sex, descent and residence.

    However, discrimination on the basis of age, educational qualification and physical fitness are allowed and justified. However, government may provide special exemptions to those sections who are educationally and socially backward like SCs, STs & OBCs.

    It is also applicable to children and women. However, Constitution of India does not provide reservation on the basis of religion.

  • Article 17 talks about prohibition of untouchability and it mentions that untouchability is a crime. Whoever practices untouchability will be punished according to the law laid down by the Parliament.

    As Article 17 is non self–executory Article, Parliament of India made Prohibition of Untouchability Act 1955. It was amended and rechristened as Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1976. However, in 1989 another enactment called Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs was made.

  • Article 18 prohibits all kinds of Titles, which indicate the special status of a person in society. Title is a prefix or suffix to the name which indicates special status.

    However, Civilian and Gallantry awards can be conferred. Moreover, Gallantry awards like Param Vir Chakra, Ashok Chakra, etc. can be used as Titles. Academic distinctions like Doctorates, Doctor of letters (D.Litt) can be used as Titles.

Extra Information

  • The expression "Equality before law" is borrowed from the law which is similar to "Rule of Law". A.V. Dicey gave three principles under "Rule of Law".

    They are (1) Supremacy of Law over all citizens, (2) Equality before Law and (3) Fundamental rights of the citizens are originated in the natural law and they are not dependent on any constitutional concept.

  • The exemption, given under Article 361 to the President and the Governor, is that criminal case cannot be filed against the President and the Governor for their omissions and commissions while they are in office.

    However, with 2 months advance notice, civil proceedings can be initiated against their actions. This exemption is given in order to protect the sanctity, serenity and the value of the office of the President and the Governor.

  • Constitution of India did not define the word "untouchability". There are two kinds of untouchables in India (1) Social untouchable and (2) Medical untouchable. Medical untouchability is valid in India.