- The concept of ‘equality before law’ is taken from British Constitution while the concept of ‘equal protection of laws’ has been taken from the American Constitution.
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About Right to Equality:
Equality before Law and Equal Protection of Laws
- Article 14 says 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. This provision confers rights on all persons whether citizens or foreigners.
- Additionally, the word ‘person’ includes legal persons, viz, statutory corporations, companies, registered societies or any other type of legal person.
- The concept of ‘equality before law’ is of British origin while the concept of ‘equal protection of laws’ has been engaged from the American Constitution.
The first concept connotes:
(a) the absence of any special privileges in favour of any person,
(b) the equal subjection of all persons to the ordinary law of the land administered by ordinary law courts, and
(c) no person (whether rich or poor, high or low, official or non-official) is above the law.
The second concept, on the other hand, connotes:
(a) the equality of treatment under equal circumstances, both in the privileges conferred and liabilities imposed by the laws,
(b) the similar application of the same laws to all persons who are similarly situated, and
(c) the like should be treated alike without any discrimination.
Thus, the former is a negative concept while the latter is a positive concept. However, both of them aim at founding equality of legal status, opportunity and justice.
- The Supreme Court held that where equals and unequals are treated differently, Article 14 does not apply.
- While Article 14 prohibits class legislation, it permits reasonable classification of persons, objects and transactions by the law. But the classification should not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive. Rather, it should be based on an intelligible differential and substantial distinction.