ConstitutionJudicial ExamLegal Notes

Landmark Judgments on Article 14 (Right to Equality) with ratio

 

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Landmark Case Laws

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Motor General Traders v. State of A.P., (1984) 1 SCC 222, 229, 230.

Nature, Scope and Object.— The equality clause contained in Article 14 requires that all persons subjected to any legislation should be treated alike under like circumstances and conditions. Equals have to be treated equally and unequals ought not to be treated equally. While that article forbids class legislation, it does not forbid classification for purposes of implementing the right of equality guaranteed by it. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and, (ii) that that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. While the classification may be founded on different bases what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration,

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 Reasonable Classification

R.K. Garg v. Union of India, (1981) 4 SCC 675, 689-90.

 

Reasonable Classification.— The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that is to say, it must not only be based on some qualities or characteristics which are to be found in all the persons grouped together and not in others who are left out but those qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object of the legislation. In order to pass the test, two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those that are grouped together from others and (2) that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act, R.K. Garg v. Union of India, (1981) 4 SCC 675, 689-90.

If illogical, unfair and unjust then classification is unreasonable, Deepak Sibal v. Punjab University (1989) 2 SCC 145.

Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi, (1981) 1 SCC 722, 740, 741.

Any arbitrary or unreasonable action of an ‘authority’ under Article 12, would be violative of Article 14. What Article 14 strikes at is arbitrariness because an action that is arbitrary, must necessarily involve negation of equality, Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi, (1981) 1 SCC 722, 740, 741.

 

Roop Chand Adlakha v. DDA, 1989 Supp (1) SCC 116.

Classification may result in inequality if it ignores pre-existing inequality, Roop Chand Adlakha v. DDA, 1989 Supp (1) SCC 116.

Manmad Reddy v. Chandra Prakash Reddy, (2010) 3 SCC 314 : (2010) 1 SCC (L&S) 1169.

A classification must be truly founded on substantial differences that distinguish persons grouped together from those left out of the group and such differential attributes must bear a just and rational relation to the object sought to be achieved. The Court always has to bear in mind the facts and circumstances of the case in order to judge the validity of a classification, B. Manmad Reddy v. Chandra Prakash Reddy, (2010) 3 SCC 314 : (2010) 1 SCC (L&S) 1169.

Food Corporation of India v. Bhartiya Khadya Nigam Karamchari Sangh, (2012) 2 SCC 307.

Classification between employee obtaining higher qualification after joining service and an employee already in possession of such qualification before joining service bears just and rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved and does not amount to discrimination offending Arts. 14 and 16, Food Corporation of India v. Bhartiya Khadya Nigam Karamchari Sangh, (2012) 2 SCC 307.

Kallakkurichi Taluk Retired Officials Assn. v. State of T.N., (2013) 2 SCC 772 : (2013) 2 SCC (L&S) 452.

A valid classification is truly a valid discrimination based on a just objective. Result to be achieved by the just objective presupposes choice of some persons for differential consideration/treatment over others. Whenever a cut-off date is fixed to categorise one set of employees for favourable consideration over others, twin test for classification viz. distinction should be based on classification founded on intelligible differentia which has a rational relationship with just objective sought to be achieved, must be satisfied, Kallakkurichi Taluk Retired Officials Assn. v. State of T.N., (2013) 2 SCC 772 : (2013) 2 SCC (L&S) 452.

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State of Maharashtra v. Indian Hotel & Restaurants Assn., (2013) 8 SCC 519 : (2013) 4 SCC (Cri) 345 : (2013) 4 SCC (Civ) 1.

Presumption that enjoyment of same kind of entertainment by upper classes leads only to mere enjoyment and in the case of poor classes, leads to immorality, decadence and depravity. Classification based on presumption that performance of an identical dance in establishments having facilities less than a three-starred hotel would be derogative to the dignity of women and would be likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality or morals, but would not be so in exempted establishments is discriminatory. Presumption is elitist, invidious and totally untenable under the Constitution, State of Maharashtra v. Indian Hotel & Restaurants Assn., (2013) 8 SCC 519 : (2013) 4 SCC (Cri) 345 : (2013) 4 SCC (Civ) 1.

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Rights of women

Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241

Rights of women.— Working women have a right to work with dignity and safe from sexual harassment. , .

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Fairness and Reasonableness

Central Inland Water Transport Corpn.v. Brojo Nath Ganguly, (1986) 3 SCC 156.

Fairness and Reasonableness.— Contracts which are unconscionable, unreasonable, unfair and against principles of distributive justice and public policy are violative of Article 14,  States’ contracts with private parties also governed by Article 14. It has to act justly, fairly and reasonably even in contractual field, Shrilekha Vidyarthi v. State of U.P., (1991) 1 SCC 212.

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Exercise of discretion

Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1982) 3 SCC 24.

Exercise of discretion.— Where unguided and unfettered discretion is conferred on any authority, whether it be the executive or the judiciary, it can be exercised arbitrarily or capriciously by such authority. There can be no equal protection without equal principles in exercise of discretion whether vested in the executive or in the judiciary,

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Principles of Natural Justice

H.L. Trehan v. Union of India (1989) 1 SCC 764.

Principles of Natural Justice.— Observance of rules of natural justice is a requirement of Article 14 and so must be observed unless expressly excluded,

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Nature and Object of Article 14

Nature and Object.— Art. 14 also inhibits treating unequals as equals, All India Sainik Schools Employees’ Assn. v. Sainik School Society, 1989 Supp (1) SCC 205; Builders Assn. v. Union of India, (1989) 2 SCC 645; Direct Recruit Cass II Engg. Officers’ Assn. v. State of Maharashtra, (1990) 2 SCC 715; Prem Chand Somchand Shah v. Union of India, (1991) 2 SCC 48; Finance Deptt. v. W.B. Registration Service Assn., 1993 Supp (1) SCC 153.

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Arbitrariness

Railway v. Mahadev Appa Rao, (2010) 7 SCC 678 : (2010) 2 SCC (L&S) 483.

Arbitrariness.— There is no precise statutory or other definition of the term “arbitrary”. Arbitrariness is the making of an order by an authority can manifest itself in different forms. Non-application of mind by the authority making an order is only one of them. Every order passed by a public authority must disclose due and proper application of mind by the person making the order. This may be evident from the order itself or record contemporaneously maintained. Application of mind is best demonstrated by disclosure of mind by the authority making the order. And disclosure is best done by recording reasons that led the authority to pass the order in question. Absence of reasons either in the order passed by the authority or in the record contemporaneously maintained, is clearly suggestive of the order being arbitrary hence legally unsustainable, East Coast Railway v. Mahadev Appa Rao, (2010) 7 SCC 678 : (2010) 2 SCC (L&S) 483.

 

Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi, (1981) 1 SCC 722.

Article 14 strikes arbitrariness because an action that is arbitrary, must necessary involve negation of equality. The doctrine of classification which is evolved by courts is not paraphrase of Article 14 nor is it the objective or end of the Article. It is merely judicial formula for determining whether the legislative or executive action in question is arbitrary and therefore constituting denial of equality. If the classification is not reasonable and does not satisfy the two conditions referred above, the impugned legislative or executive action would plainly be arbitrary and the guarantee of equality under Article 14 would be breached. Therefore, wherever there is arbitrariness in State action whether it be of legislative or executive or of an ‘authority’ under Article 12, Article 14 immediately springs into action and strikes down such state action,

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Reservation

Union of India v. Rakesh Kumar, (2010) 4 SCC 50 : (2010) 1 SCC (L&S) 961.

Reservation.— Reservation of seats under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) for socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs) is an example of “proportionate representation”. Principle of “adequate representation” is adopted when it is found that a particular community is under-represented and measures are taken to achieve desired level of representation. Reservation of one-third seats for women in Panchayats in Part IX, is an embodiment of “adequate representation”. Reservation of 50% seats for STs in Panchayats in Scheduled Areas is an example of “compensatory discrimination”,

Ram Singh v. Union of India, (2015) 4 SCC 697.

Self-proclamation and claim of a community of backwardness based on perception of advancement of other classes to seek protection as less fortunate is not constitutionally permissible. Inclusion of Jat community in the Central List of Backward Classes for the States of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Bharatpur and Dholpur Districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, unconstitutional.

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Equality

Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of W.B., AIR 1953 SC 404.

Equality.— Like should be treated alike as absolute equality might lead to inequality, Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of W.B., AIR 1953 SC 404.

  1. Nagrajv. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 212.

Equality is the basic feature of Constitution. The content of Article 14 was originally interpreted by the Supreme Court as a concept of equality confined to aspects of discrimination and classification. The content of Article 14 got expanded conceptually so as to comprehend the doctrine of promissory estoppel, non-arbitrariness, compliance with rules of natural justice, eschewing irrationality etc., M. Nagraj v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 212.

Hari Ram v. State of Haryana, (2010) 3 SCC 621 : (2010) 1 SCC (Civ) 787.

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Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1.

Equality of citizens’ rights is one of the fundamental pillars on which edifice of rule of law rests. All actions of State have to be fair and for legitimate reasons,  Right to equality before law, is secured from all legislative and executive tyranny by way of discrimination,

ABC v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2015) 10 SCC 1.

For attainment of equality before the law and equal protection of the laws, regardless of religion, caste, community, faith, etc. interpretation of general/secular law of the land must in such a manner as to attain parity in rights/entitlements of persons of one religious group standing disadvantaged when compared with their counterparts from another religious group. There is disadvantaged position of Christian unwed mothers vis-a-vis Hindu counterparts in India. An unwed mother in India can apply to become the sole guardian of a child, without going notice to the father of the child and without disclosing his identity,

Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sanga v. Govt. of T.N., (2016) 2 SCC 725.

Appointments of Archakas in temples will have to be made in accordance with the Agamas, subject to their due identification as well as their conformity with the Constitutional mandates and principles,

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Public Interest

Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Others v. Union of India and Others, (2012) 3 SCC 1.

Public Interest.— Public interest, is to be primary consideration for dispensation/ allocation of natural resources by State. Distribution process must be fair and transparent affording equal opportunity to all interested parties (subject to competition amongst market players).

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Distribution of Natural Resources

Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1.

 

Distribution of Natural Resources.— Where revenue maximisation is object of policy, auction would be one of the preferable methods, though not the only method. Auction despite being a more preferable method of alienation/allotment of natural resources, cannot be held to be a constitutional requirement for alienation of all natural resources. Hence, every method other than auction cannot be struck down as ultra vires the Constitution, even if there might be a potential for abuse, as potential for abuse cannot be the basis for striking down a method as ultra vires the Constitution. Furthermore, court cannot conduct a comparative study of various methods of distribution of natural resources and suggest the most efficacious mode. It respects mandate and wisdom of executive in such matters. Methodology pertaining to disposal of natural resources is clearly a matter of economic policy which entails economic choices, and court lacks necessary expertise therefor. Hence, there can be exceptions to auction: ultimate test being fairness of decision-making process and strict compliance with Article 14. However, a blithe deviation from public disposal of resources would not be tolerable. Such deviation must be justified by compelling reasons and not just convenience, Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1.

Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1.

When a policy decision to allienate/allocate natural resources is not backed by a social or welfare purpose, and precious and scarce resources are alienated for commercial pursuits of profit maximising private entrepreneurs (i.e. crony capitalism), adoption of means other than those that are competitive and maximise revenue may be held arbitrary to face wrath of Article 14.

Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012, (2012) 10 SCC 1.

There is no constitutional imperative in the matter of economic policies. Article 14 does not predefine any economic policy as a constitutional mandate. Even mandate of Article 39(b) imposes no restrictions on the means adopted to subserve the public good and uses the broad term “distribution”, suggesting that the methodology of distribution is not fixed.

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Policy Decisions

Pathan Mohammed Suleman Rehmatkhan v. State of Gujarat, (2014) 4 SCC 156.

Policy Decisions.— It is open to the State and the authorities to take economic and management decisions depending upon the exigencies of a situation guided by appropriate financial policy notified in public interest. If every decision taken by the State is tested by a microscopic and a suspicious eye, administration will come to a standstill and the decision-makers will lose all their initiative and enthusiasm, Pathan Mohammed Suleman Rehmatkhan v. State of Gujarat, (2014) 4 SCC 156.

Common cause v. Union of India, (2015) 7 SCC 1.

Guidelines for content regulation for government advertising, issued, Common cause v. Union of India, (2015) 7 SCC 1.

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Duty of State

K.C. Bajaj v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 777.

Duty of State.— State cannot arbitrarily pick and choose from amongst similarly suited persons, to pursue legal proceedings against some and not to do so consciously against others. Such an approach would be ex facie arbitrary, unjust and violative of Art. 14, K.C. Bajaj v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 777.

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Public Functions

Board of Cricket Control for Cricket in India v. Cricket Association of Bihar, (2015) 3 SCC 251.

Public Functions.— BCCI even though not a ‘State’ under Art. 12 does perform certain public functions like selection of the team to represent the country in international arena and has a complete sway on the game of cricket which make it amenable to the Writ Jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226, Board of Cricket Control for Cricket in India v. Cricket Association of Bihar, (2015) 3 SCC 251.

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Discretionary Power

State of W.B. v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75.

Discretionary Power.— A law conferring absolute or uncontrolled discretion in an authority negates the protection given under Article 14, State of W.B. v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR 1952 SC 75.

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Single class classification

Charanjit Lal Choudhary v. UOI, AIR 1951 SC 41.

Single class classification.— A single institution is capable of being treated as a class by itself for the purpose of legislation if there are special circumstances or reasons which are applicable to that institution and such legislation would not include the wrath of Article 14, Charanjit Lal Choudhary v. UOI, AIR 1951 SC 41.

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Right to safety against crime

Youth Bar Assn. of India v. Union of India, (2016) 9 SCC 473 : (2016) 3 SCC (Cri) 691.

Right to safety against crime.— The Supreme Court directed that the copies of the FIRs, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism and of that category, offences under POCSO Act and such other offences, should be uploaded on the police website, Youth Bar Assn. of India v. Union of India, (2016) 9 SCC 473 : (2016) 3 SCC (Cri) 691.

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Protection/Remedies/Reliefs afforded by the Act

Hiral P. Harsora v. Kusum Narottamdas Harsora, (2016) 10 SCC 165.

Protection/Remedies/Reliefs afforded by the Act.— Supreme Court struck down the words “adult male” before the word “person” in Section 2(q) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 holding that these words discriminate between persons similarly situated, and is contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the Domestic Violence Act. Thus remedies under 2005 Act are available even against a female member and also against non-adults, Hiral P. Harsora v. Kusum Narottamdas Harsora, (2016) 10 SCC 165.

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Equality in matters of public employment

State of U.P. v. Anand Kumar Yadav, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 792.

Equality in matters of public employment.— The appointment of 1.78 Lakh Assistant Teachers (Shiksha Mitras) in Junior Basic Schools, quashed. The Shiksha Mitras cannot be regularized as teachers as the appointment of Shiksha Mitras was not only contractual, it was not as per qualification prescribed for a teacher nor on designation of teacher nor in pay scale of teachers, State of U.P. v. Anand Kumar Yadav, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 792.

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Mandatory seeding of Aadhaar numbers in PAN database

Binoy Viswam v. Union of India, (2017) 7 SCC 59.

Mandatory seeding of Aadhaar numbers in PAN database.— Obligation of all assessees to provide Aadhaar number or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form while applying for PAN or while filing income tax return does not violate Arts. 14 or 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, Binoy Viswam v. Union of India, (2017) 7 SCC 59.


 

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