In general sense, everybody here is capable of understanding Article 14 of the Indian Constitution i.e. “Right to Equality”. Even after 73 years of independence, our country is not able to gain actual independence. Evils like discrimination are still prevailing in our country. Even the one who created our Constitution suffered from this anathema. Even now there are some places where people are not treated equally and they are discriminated on different basis like religion, race, sex, caste, place of origin, etc.
By knowing the scenario of India our Constitution-makers added Article 14 in Indian Constitution as the fundamental right to citizens as well as those who are not a citizen of our territory.
The main purpose of writing this article is to bring clarity about Article 14. When we see a husband treating his wife badly, a girl who is not able to complete her education due to family pressure, a lower caste man being shown inferior to upper caste people. These are examples of discrimination. Here we can understand how important the role of the state is to maintain the equality of citizens.
Article 14 basically states that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
To treat all citizens equally is the basic concept of liberalism and Article 14 ensures the same to our citizens. The liberty of any person is directly connected to the equality he/she is getting in society.
Equality before Law
Our country as we all know is a democratic country and in fact the largest democratic country in the world. Here all are independent to think about anything, do anything (with reasonable restriction though) and our state is there to put reasonable restriction. In the eyes of law, all persons within the territory of our country should be treated equally.
Equality before Law basically means that all persons should be treated equally no matter whether they are poor or rich, male or female, upper caste or lower caste. This state cannot provide any special privileges to anyone in the country. It is also known as legal equality.
Equality before the law and absolute equality
On one hand, Equality before Law prohibits providing any special privilege to any community or people. It does not talk about equal treatment in equal circumstances. According to it, there must be a very ideal condition and the state does not need to interfere in society by providing additional privileges in society.
On the other hand Right to Equality is not absolute and has several exceptions to it. Accordingly, equals should be treated equally. Equality before Law has several exceptions, for example, the Immunity provided to the President and Governor. Reservation is also a typical example that defines that the Right to Equality is not absolute and can be restricted (or rather used properly) according to the need of the society.
In the very famous case of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, the question of whether the Right to Equality is absolute or not was raised. Here Supreme Court held that the Right to equality is not absolute. In this case, the State of Bengal was found to use its power arbitrarily to refer any case to the Special Court which was made by them. It was thus held that the Act of State of Bengal violates the Right to Equality.
No equality in illegality
There cannot be equality before the law for the person who is a wrongdoer. A person who is doing illegal acts cannot ask for Right to Equality in front of a court or the judicial system. The case of Baliram Prasad Singh v. State Of Bihar of Patna High Court clearly explains that there cannot be equality for illegal acts as the petitioner was himself at fault, therefore, he was made to compensate for his illegal act.
At last, I would like to conclude that as our country is democratic we have been provided certain fundamental rights to every citizen and ensure that these rights should not be infringed by anyone