The Right to Equality is embodied in Articles 14–16.
Article 14 declares that "the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India".
· “Equality before the law” is an expression of English Common Law. It is a negative concept implying the absence of any special privilege in favour of any individual and the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law.
The constitution of India guarantees Rule of law, as an aspect of “equality before the law” which means that no man is above the law and that every person is subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts of law, irrespective of his rank and position. Rule of law is a “basic feature”, so, it cannot be destroyed by amendment.
· While "equal protection of laws" owes its origin to the American Constitution. It is a more positive concept employing equality of treatment under equal circumstances. This implies that state can make reasonable discriminations in favour of less privileged.
Exceptions: Under Art.361 President and governors are exempted for any criminal proceedings during their tenure.
· The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
The word ‘only’ signifies that State shall not discriminate only on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. However, discrimination can be made on the basis of other qualifications.
· Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
· Nothing in this article or Article 29(2) 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.(1st Constitutional Amendment,1951).
· According to 93rd Amendment Act, 2005 (w.e.f. 20-2-2006), State by law can make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for SCs and STs for their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions.
Minority educational institutions were excluded in order to protect their identity.
· This exception has been provided since the classes of people mentioned therein are considered deprived and in need of special protection.
· This right can be enforced against the State as well as private individuals.
It guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. It prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them.
· Place of residence may be laid down by the legislature as a condition for particular classes of employment or appointment in any State or any local authority.
· Further, the State may reserve any post or appointment in favour of any backward class of citizens, who, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under that State.
· In addition, the offices connected with the religious or denominated institutions may be reserved for the members practicing that particular religion.
The right to equality in matters regarding public employment shall not be conferred to Overseas citizens of India, according to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill'', 2003.
- It abolishes "untouchability", and its practice in any form is made an offence punishable under the law.
- Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955(amended in 1976) has been enacted by the Parliament to further this objective.
- It prohibits the State from conferring any titles other than military or academic distinctions, and the citizens of India cannot accept titles from a foreign state.
- Thus, Indian aristocratic titles and titles of nobility conferred by the British have been abolished. However, awards such as the Bharat Ratna have been held to be valid by the Supreme Court on the ground that they are merely decorations and cannot be used by the recipient as a title.