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Article 14: Constitution of India

By Shivendra Pratap Singh

Article 14: Equality before law

The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

According to the right to equality, all person should be treated alike under like circumstances and conditions. The principle of equality also connotes that “Equals have to be treated equally and unequals ought not to be treated equally.” Our constitution has adopted this principle in Article 14 thereby all are equal before the law and state cannot treat them unequally.

Article 14 does not forbid classification

However, this principle does not forbid classification based on “intelligible differentia” for achieving the special purpose of the constitutional goal. That differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the state through the statute. In Motor General Traders v. State of A.P., (1984) 1 SCC 222; the Supreme Court held that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration.

The classification should be just, fair and reasonable

The classification must not be arbitrary. It must be based upon some qualities or characteristics i.e. “intelligible differentia” which have a reasonable relation to the object of the legislation. In Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi, (1981) 1 SCC 722 the supreme Court expressed that

What Article 14 strikes at is arbitrariness because an action that is arbitrary, must necessarily involve negation of equality,

“Doctrine of classification” is a judicial formula for determination of legislative and executive action whether it is within the objective framework of Article 14. If that action does not satisfy the two essential condition referred in Ajay Hasis case, the impugned legislative or executive action would plainly be arbitrary and violative of equality as guaranteed under article 14.

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