What do you understand by  ”equality before law” and “equal protection of laws”? Can there be exceptions to equality? Explain.

What do you understand by  ”equality before law” and “equal protection of laws”? Can there be exceptions to equality? Explain.
Approach:
  • Introduce with Right to equality and article 14
  • Define the core concept of” Equality before law” and “Equal protection of law”
  • Giving reference of SC, mention exceptions
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

 

Article 14-18 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to equality to every citizen of India. Article 14 says that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
The concept of “equality before law” is of British origin. It connotes:
a) The absence of any special privileges in favor of any person.
b) The equal subjection of all people to ordinary law of the land administered by ordinary law courts.
c) No person whether rich or poor, low or high, official or non-official is above law.
The concept of “equal protection of laws” has been taken from the American Constitution. It 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 law to all persons who are similarly situated
c) Like should be treated alike without any discrimination.
The former is negative concept while the latter is a positive concept. However both of them aimed at establishing equality of legal status, opportunity and justice.
However, the Supreme Court held that where equals and unequals are treated differently (for examples, armed forces, public officials on official duty etc.), Article 14 does not apply. There are constitutional exceptions to right to equality. 
Some of them are:
  1. No process for arrest or imprisonment of president or governor shall be issued from any court during his term of office.
  2. No member of parliament shall be liable to any proceeding of court  for anything said or voted in parliament (Art 105).
  3. Article 31C – where law made by state to implement DPSPs in clause (b) and (c) of Article 39 cannot be challenged for violation of article 14.
Hence the rule of equality before law is not absolute and it permits reasonable classification of persons, objects and transactions by the law for the purpose of achieving specific ends. But classification must not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive.

Subjects : Polity

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