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Right to equality

Classification of fundamental rights

Fundamental rights have been classified under the following six categories

Right to equality (Article 14-18)

Right to freedom (Article 19-22)

Right against exploitation (Article 23-24)

Right to freedom of religion (Article 25-28)

Cultural and educational rights (Article 29-30)

Right to constitutional remedies (Article 32)

 




Right to equality (Article 14-18)

Article 14: Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Laws.

The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Equality Before Law is a negative concept. It signifies that no one is above the law. The concept has been borrowed from the United Kingdom's Constitution. It is based on the concept of the Rule of Law.

The essential characteristic of the Rule of Law is

·        The Supremacy of law means that all persons (individuals and government) are subject to the law.

·        The concept of justice which emphasizes interpersonal adjudication, law based on standards, and the importance of procedures.

·        Restrictions on the exercise of discretionary powers.

·        The doctrine of judicial precedent.

·        The common law methodology.

·        Legislation should be prospective and not retrospective.

·        Underlying moral basis for all laws.

Equal Protection of Laws

The concept of equal protection of laws is based on Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of The United States of America adopted on 28th July 1868. It does not mean the equal application of the law for all people irrespective of the circumstances under which they are placed. It means equality as per law in equal circumstances i.e., equality among equals. There should be no discrimination between one person and another in similar circumstances.

Exceptions

·        Under Article 361(1), The president, or the Governor of a state, shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties.

·        No criminal proceedings shall be initiated or continued against the President, or the Governor of a state in any court during his term of office.

·        No process for the arrest or imprisonment of the President, or the Governor of a state, shall be issued from any court during his term of office.

·        No civil proceedings in which relief is claimed against the President or the Governor of a state shall be initiated during his term of office in any court in respect of any act done or purporting to be done by him in his personal capacity, whether before or after he entered upon his office as President or as Governor of a state, until the expiry of 2 months after the notice in writing has been delivered to the President or the Governor, as the case may be, or left at his office stating the nature of the proceedings, the cause of action, therefore, the name, description, and place of residence of the party by whom such proceedings are to be instituted and the relief which it claims.

·         Under International law, the visiting head of government and foreign diplomats posted in the country are not subject to the jurisdiction of local courts.

 

Prohibition of Discrimination on Certain Grounds

Article 15: 

The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. This right is available only to citizens.

Exceptions

Article 15(3): Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children.

Article 15(4): Nothing in this article or in Clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

 

Equality of Opportunity in Matters of Public Employment

Article 16 :

·        There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.

·        No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the state. This right is available only to citizens.

Exceptions

Article 16(3): Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, regarding a class or classes of employment or appointment to any office under the government, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union Territory before such employment or appointment.

Article 16(4): Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward classes of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.

Article 16(4A): Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class or classes of posts in the services under the state in favor of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the state, are not adequately represented in the services under the state.

 

Abolition of Untouchability

Article 17 :

Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of 'Untouchability' shall be an offense punishable by the law.

Untouchability is neither defined in the Constitution nor in the Act. The Mysore High court has, however, held that the term is not to be understood in its literal or grammatical sense but to be understood as the practice as it had developed historically in this country.

The Parliament enacted the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955. This Act was amended by the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1976, To make the law more stringent to remove the evil of Untouchability from society. It has now been named 'The Protection of Civil Rights' Act prescribes punishment that may extend to imprisonment up to 6 months and also with a fine, which may extend to Rs 500 or both.

 

Abolition of Titles

Article 18 :

·        No title, not being military or academic distinction shall be conferred by the state.

·        No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign state.

·        No person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit or trust under the state, accept without the consent of the President any title from any foreign state.

·        No person holding any office of profit or trust under the state shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign state.

Only those titles which can create artificial social barriers have been abolished. The National Awards were introduced by the center in 1954, by Presidential notifications. The Presidential notification made it clear that these civilian awards cannot be used as titles and should not be attached as suffixes and prefixes were discontinued. However, they were revived in 1980.

 

Small Facts

·        The concept of equality before the law is of British origin.

·        Article 14 of the Indian constitution deals with the Right to Equality.

·         The concept of equal protection of the law is based on American Constitution


Also Read:

The preamble to the constitution of India

Citizenship of India

Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression   

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