In this article, Sagnik Chatterjee who is currently in IInd Year pursuing BA.LL.B, from Symbiosis Law School, Pune, discusses about the Right to Equality in India.

Meaning of Right to Equality

The term Right to Equality is originally taken from the constitution of England and as explained in that test the term means;

I. First and foremost, this means that any person irrespective of gender, religion, caste, or creed will be treated equally in the eyes of law. The legal system will be completely blind and unbiased towards the person standing before it.

II. The legal system or any law will be equally applicable towards all the people entitled to it. That is to say, two persons will be similarly punished in the eyes of law for committing the crime of the same nature.

III. Last but not the least, no person will be above the legal system or the laws in force of the country. From the lawmakers to servants, from rich to poor everyone will be equally entitled to the law in force.

Equity and Equality

There is a thin line of difference between Equality and Equity. Equality means equal treatment to all the people irrespective of any other present factors. Whereas, Equity means treating different people differently based on the other factors present so that everyone can be at the same position at the end.


A has Rs. 40, B has Rs. 30, C has Rs. 20

According to the principles of Equality, we will give them each the same amount of money for example Rs. 40.  Now A has Rs. 80, B has Rs. 70 and C has Rs.60.

According to the principle of Equity, we will give A Rs. 10, B Rs.20 and C Rs. 30, and now everyone has Rs. 50.

In reality and in the actual practice of the principle of equality does not mean a similar treatment to everybody. As no two individuals are equal in all regards, a similar treatment to them in each regard would bring about unequal treatment. As no two people are equivalent in all respects, a comparable treatment to them in each respect would achieve inconsistent treatment. For example, a comparative treatment in all views to an adolescent as an adult, or to an incapacitated or genuinely hindered individual with respect to an individual liberated from any medical issues, or to a princely individual as to poor, will realize inconsistent treatment or treatment which nobody will legitimize.

Thus, the essential standard of equality isn’t the consistency of treatment to everything thought about being equivalent, yet rather to give them a comparative treatment in such matters where they are similar and assorted treatment in such matters in which they are not the same. Essentially, it is communicated: Equals are to be managed along these lines while Unequal must be managed in an alternate manner. For genuine utilization of the rule of equity, taking everything into account, we should, thus, segregate between the people who are comparable and the people who are not comparable among each other based on the circumstances and other factors involved.

Right to Equality under the Indian Constitution

Under the Constitution of India, the Right to Equality is embodied under article 14-18 and exactly what rights and liberties these articles provide is stated hereunder.

Under Article 14 of the constitution of India, it is stated that all people shall be equally treated under the law and shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State will treat the citizens of this country or even otherwise any person subjected to the laws of this country in the same way if the circumstances and other determining factors are alike and they shall be treated differently if the circumstances and other determining factors are different.

Under Article 15 of the Constitution of India, it is stated that no citizen of India shall be subjected to any sort of discrimination upon their rights under the laws of this country based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. However, this provision does not constrain the State to make any special provision for women or children or any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes for their own upliftment in the society.

Under Article 16 of the Constitution of India, it is laid down that the State cannot discriminate among the citizens of the country in the matters of employment in Public Sector. However again this provision does not constrain the State to make any special provision to reserve certain posts or job profiles or a certain percentage of jobs in the public sectors for women or children or any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes for their own upliftment in the society.

Under Article 17 of the constitution, it abolishes the practice of untouchability to be performed anywhere in this country by either the Citizen of this country or any people subjected to the laws of this country. The practise of untouchability is also an offence and anyone doing so is punishable by the provisions laid down under the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955.

Under Article 18 of the Constitution of India, it prohibits the State from conferring any titles. It states that Citizens of India cannot accept any titles such as Rai Bahadurs and Khan Bahadurs given by the British during their rule, from a foreign State. However, titles and awards to recognize the excellence in the field of Military force, Academic, Entertainment etc. can be conferred on the citizens of India.

Leading Case Laws

Here is a list of leading cases on the principle of Equality as embodied in the Constitution of India chronologically to also point out the changes happened to the applicability of such principle in modern times according to the changing people and their needs in the society.

In the case of P. Rajendan v. State of Madras[1], the district-wise distribution of seats in state medical colleges on the ground of proportion of the population of a district to the total population of the state was in question. Now any classification will be valid under article 14 if there is a relation between the classification and the object sought to be achieved from that classification. For any selection process of admission, the main goal should be that the best possible candidates get selected, but here due to this rule, a less deserving candidate from one district can get selected whereas a more deserving candidate from the other district will not which is unreasonable and not fair and hence it was declared to be violative of the principle of equality under Article 14.

In the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[2], Justice P.N.Bhagwati, pronounced the new concept relating to the principle of Equality which states;

“Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be imprisoned within traditional and doctrinaire limits. Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in State action and ensures fairness and equality of treatment. The principle of reasonableness, which legally as well as philosophically, is an essential element of equality, or non- arbitrariness pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipresence.”

In Air India v. Nargesh Meerza[3] Regulation 46 of Indian Airlines regulations was in question. The said provision states that an air Hostess will be made to resign by the administration from her position after accomplishing the age of 35 years or on marriage inside 4 years of Service or on first pregnancy and otherwise they could continue their services till the age of 45 years if they are proved to be medically fit.

It was held by the court that compulsory resignation on the ground of pregnancy was totally arbitrary and unreasonable and discretionary, it was the infringement of article 14 under the Constitution of India.

In D.S Nakara v. Union of India[4], in this case, the supreme court said that Rule 34 of the central services( pension) rules, 1972 as unconstitutional on the ground that the classification made by it between pensioners retiring before a certain date and retiring after that date did not depend upon any rational principle it was arbitrary and the infringement of article 14 of Indian constitution law.


From the above-mentioned judgements passed by the Court, it is clear that Article 14 of the Constitution of India ensures equal rights without discrimination of any manner. It also makes sure that everyone is treated equally in the eyes of law and most importantly there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race or social status.  Being said that, right to equality is indeed one most indispensable rights among the fundamental rights prescribed in the Constitution and a part of the basic structure of the same.  

[1] 1968 AIR 1012

[2] 1978 AIR 597

[3] 1981 AIR 1829

[4] 1983 AIR 130

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