Written By: Priya Darshini.

Edited By: Naimisa Madduri.


“Right to Equality is one of the most important pillars of the Indian Constitution and it ought to be upheld in all situations”

These are the prominent words delivered by Former Chief Justice Ray in the E.P. ROYAPPA vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1974)[1]. These words highlight the indispensable nature of Right to Equality. The Right to Equality is considered to be one of the most important Fundamental Rights vested upon a nation’s citizens, and is mentioned in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution 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.”[2] In layman’s terms, Article 14 insists that every single person is treated equally in the eyes of Law and provided with fair opportunities. Article 14, which is applicable to both Citizens and Non-Citizens of India, prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex and Origin. It also condemns any kind of discrimination between a person of Higher class and that of a Lower class and vests power with the State to ensure the equal protection of laws within the territory of India. The concept of Equality is regarded to be dynamic and inconsistent, owing to the innumerous changes it has been through right from its inception in 1947. It is only through this evolution, we can conclude that Equality is a kind of concept which cannot be confined to its limits and is subjected to multiple definitions.

As mentioned in the earlier paragraph, the concept of Equality is applicable to everyone residing inside the territory of India and it disallows any kind of special treatment to anyone. It must be understood that this concept does not mean Equal treatment in equal circumstances. It describes that, equals should be treated in a manner which is equal in the eyes of the Law. From this, we can infer that the concept of Equality differs from individual to individual and is not absolute. This thought of Right to Equality being considered as a non-absolute right drew its advent in the case of State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar[3], where the Hon’ble Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice M Patanjali, passed the judgement that Right to Equality is not absolute in nature. The fact that the Act of State of Bengal violated Right to equality was also brought to light in this case.


The Right to equality is a topic which is constantly evolving and has been subjected to a lot of changes and amendments since its initiation. The very first Amendment in Right to Equality came when the concept of Untouchability was abolished in 1950. DR. B R Ambedkar, who is regarded as the ‘Father of Indian Constitution’, is the man responsible behind the abolishment of Untouchability in India. He undertook great efforts to ensure that this abhorrent tradition, which was practised in India for a long time, was totally uprooted. This great accomplishment ignited the idea of Equality in the minds of the Indian citizens and also found its way to be mentioned in Article 17 of the Indian Constitution. The wanton feeling to be treated equally started as an insignificant spark and later on spread like a forest fire in the minds of every citizen. This feat laid the foundation for future amendments and changes which changed the entire course of how right to equality was viewed upon.

Another landmark case which resulted in the upholding of the concept of equality is the Navtej Singh Johar v UOI[4]. This is the case which is considered to be a turning point in the lives of the LGBTQ community people. In 2018, huge uproars were heard outside the Supreme Court of India, when the five judged bench passed the declaration which scrapped Article 377 from the Indian Constitution. Article 377 which criminalised same sex marriage, is now removed from Constitution and LGBTQ individuals are allowed to have consensual relationships with any person of choice. It is because of this judgement equality was restored in the society and the faith people have in the Judiciary increased significantly.

This 2018 landmark judgement was influenced by yet another judgement which was passed in 2014. The National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014)[5] was the case which declared Transgenders as a ‘Third Gender’ and gave them the right to self identify themselves as Male, Female or Transgender. The two judged Supreme Court bench which consisted of Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri made sure that equality was restored by handing over this landmark judgement on 15th April, 2014.



          The Right to Education scheme was introduced in 2009 by the Government of India to ensure that all children in between ages 6 to 14 years are availed with quality education. This is a scheme which is a part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, brought in the concept of equality in the field of Education. Education under RTE was made compulsory and free to facilitate more participation from students who belonged to economically backward classes. The formation and passing of the RTE scheme is regarded as a historic moment for the children since it upholds the right to equality. This is the proof and validation that there definitely exists equality before law for all citizens.


          The Indian reservation scheme is arguably one of the most debated and discussed topics in the nation. This concept was introduced by the ‘Father of the Indian constitution’                     Dr. B R Ambedkar during the preparation of the draft of the Indian constitution. The reason for the inclusion of this concept was to entitle backward class sections with the advantages they couldn’t afford to enjoy. He wanted the upliftment of the weaker sections by giving them equal opportunities to prosper. Currently, three groups are availed with reservations- Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC). Initially, the concept of reservation was restricted to only Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. It was only in 1987, it was made applicable to Other Backward Class people also. The reservation percentage of each group has been subjected to constant changes owing to the changing scenario. The current reservation scenarios of various groups are:


This concept of reservation is applicable to these groups across various fields like Education, Jobs, Promotions and Examinations. The Indra Sawhney & Others v. Union of India[6] was a landmark judgement which reiterated and marked the boundaries for the reservation limits of various groups. The case, in which the judgement was passed in 1992, limited the reservation limit of the Other Backward Class people to 50%.


The idea of Equality before the law is one of the most appreciated ideas brought in by the Indian Judiciary. It simply means that every single person has access to Justice and no one can be denied this access. It is the duty of the Government of India to ensure that justice and the right to appear in the court is provided to all people, especially to the economically backward sections, who lack the awareness of Law and Justice. The doors of the courts are open to all. It is the prime responsibility of the Government to spread awareness and make sure that this facility can be availed by everybody irrespective of colour, caste, creed and gender.


I quote Dr. B R Ambedkar, “Indifferentism is the worst kind of disease that can affect people.” The progress of a society as a whole is measured by the degree in which Equality is prevalent. Even though the Judiciary and other law enforcing bodies have been putting their best foot forward to ensure that equality is preserved in our society, I, for one as a responsible citizen, feel that it is the prime duty of the citizens to be aware of their rights to ensure maximum effectiveness of the policies formulated. We can conclude from this that the role of the citizens is regarded to be vital in the eradication of inequality from our society. Great leaders like B R Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy strived to achieve equality and have been particular about it in all places in our society. Hence, I conclude by saying that it is the moral obligation we, as citizens have, to continue and uphold the legacies of these great people.

[1]  E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1974 SCC 555.

[2]  The Cambridge Law Journal, Volume 19, Issue 2, November 1961, pp. 223-238

[3]   State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, 1952 AIR 75, 1952 SCR 284

[4] Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, AIR 2018 SC 4321

[5] National Legal Service Authority [NALSA] v UOI, AIR 2014 SC 1863

[6] Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, AIR 1992 SCC 217

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