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article 14




First part of article 14 is negative concept , which ensures that there is no special privilege for anyone. Its equivalent to second corollary of Dicean Rule of law . Whatever rank or condition , none is above the law. Second part of article 14 is a positive concept , it postulates the same laws for the persons similarly situated i.e. equality of treatment in equality of circumstances. It recognizes that among equals , law must equal.


As per Black’s Law Dictionary, ‘Class legislation’ is term applied to statutory enactments which divide the people or subjects of legislation into classes, with reference either to the grant of privileges or the imposition of burdens, upon an arbitrary, unjust, or invidious principle of division, or which, though the principle of division may be sound and justifiable, make arbitrary discrimination between those persons or things coming within the same class.


The fundamental principle is that Art. 14 forbids class legislation but permits reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation which classification must satisfy the twin tests of classification being founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from those that are left out of the group and that differentia must have a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.





Supreme Court of India

Srinivasa Theatre And Ors. Etc. ... vs Government Of Tamil Nadu And Ors. ... on 12 March, 1992

Article 14 of the Constitution enjoin upon the State not to deny to any person 'Equality before law' or 'the equal protection of laws' within the territory of India. The two expressions do not mean the same thing even if there may be much in common. Section 1 of the XIV Amendment to U.S. Constitution uses only the latter expression whereas the Irish Constitution (1937) and the West German Constitution (1949) use the expression "equal before law" alone. Both these expressions are used together in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 7 whereof says "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." While ascertaining the meaning and content of these expression, however, we need not be constrained by the interpretation placed upon them in those countries though their relevance is undoubtedly great. It has to be found and determined having regard to the context and scheme of our Constitution. It appears to us that the word "law" in the former expression is used in a generic sense-a philosophical sense-whereas the word "law" in the latter expression denotes specific laws in force.

Equality before law is a dynamic concept having many facets. One facet-the most commonly acknowledged-is that there shall be no previleged person or class and that none shall be above law. A facet which is of immediate relevance herein is the obligation upon the State to bring about, through the machinery of law, a more equal society envisaged by the preamble and part IV of our Constitution.For equality before law can be predicated meaningfully only in an equal society i.e., in a society contemplated by Article 38 of the Constitution.

Supreme Court of India

Kerala Hotel & Restaurant ... vs State Of Kerala And Ors on 21 February, 1990

Equivalent citations: 1990 AIR 913, 1990 SCR (1) 516


Broadly stated the points involved in the constitutional attack to the validity of this classification are, in sub- stance, only two:


(1) Is the classification of sales of cooked food made with reference to the eating houses wherein the sales are made, rounded on an intelligible differentia? and (2) If so, does the classification have a rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved?


(Fazl Ali J. has distilled in the form of seven principles most of the useful observations of this Court in the Sholapur Mills case, ChiranjitLal Chowdhury v. The Union of India and Others Willis says :--


"The guaranty of the equal protection of the laws means the protection of equal laws. It forbids

class legislation, but does not forbid classification which rests upon reasonable grounds of distinction. It does not prohibit legislation, which is limited either in the objects to which it is directed or by the territory within which it is to operate. "It merely requires that all persons subject to such legislation shall be treated alike under like cir- cumstances and conditions both in the privileges conferred and in the liabilities imposed." "The inhibition of the amendment was designed to prevent any person or class of persons from being singled out as a special subject for discriminating and hostile legislation." It does not take from the states the power to classify either in the adoption of police laws, or tax laws, or eminent domain laws, but permits to them the exercise of a wide scope of discretion, and nullifies what they do only when it is without any reasonable basis. Mathematical nicety and perfect equality are not required. Similarity, not identity of treatment, is enough. If any state of facts can reasonably be conceived to sustain a classification, the existence of that state of facts must be assumed. One who assails a classification must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest upon any reasonable basis."


The seven principles formulated by Fazl Ali J. are as follows :--


"1. The presumption is always in favour of the constitutionality of an enactment, since it must be assumed that the legislature understands and correctly appreciates the needs of its own people, that its laws are directed to problems made manifest by experience and its discriminations are based on adequate grounds.


2. The presumption may be rebutted in certain cases by showing that on the face of the statute, there is no classification at all and no difference peculiar to any individual or class and not applicable to any other individual or class, and yet the law hits only a particular individual or class.


3. The principle of equality does not mean that every law must have universal application for all persons who are not by nature, attainment or circumstances in the same position, and the varying needs of different classes of persons often require separate treatment.


4. The principle does not take away from the State the power of classifying persons for legitimate purposes.


5. Every classification is in some degree likely to produce some inequality, and mere production of inequality is not enough.


6. If a law deals equally with members of a welldefined class, it is not obnoxious and it is not open to the charge of denial of equal protection on the ground that it has no application to other persons.


7. While reasonable classification is permissible, such classification must be based upon some real and substantial distinction bearing a reasonable and just relation to the object sought to be attained, and the classification cannot be made arbitrarily and without any substantial basis.")




Supreme Court of India

Deepak Sibal & Ors vs Punjab University And Another on 14 February, 1989

In considering the reasonableness of classification from the point of view of Article 14 of the Constitution, the Court has also to consider the objective for such classification. If the objective be illogical, unfair and unjust, necessarily the classification will have to be held as unreasonable

It is true that a classification need not be made with mathematical precision but, if there be little or no difference between the persons or things which have been grouped together and those left out of the group, in that case, the classification cannot be said to be a reasonable one.



Supreme Court of India

Federation Of Railway Officers ... vs Union Of India on 13 March, 2003

In examining a question of the nature where a policy is evolved by the Government , judicial review thereof is limited. When policy according to which or the purpose for which discretion is to be exercised is clearly expressed in the statute, it cannot be said to be an unrestricted discretion. On matters affecting policy and requiring technical expertise Court would leave the matter for decision of those who are qualified to address the issues. Unless the policy or action is inconsistent with the Constitution and the laws or arbitrary or irrational or abuse of the power, the Court will not interfere with such matters.




Supreme Court of India

Chiranjit Lal Chowdhuri vs The Union Of India And Others on 4 December, 1950

Quite conceivably there may be a law relating to a single individual if it is made apparent that, on account of some special reasons applicable only to him and inapplicable to anyone else, that single individual is a class by himself.


Supreme Court of India

The State Of West Bengal vs Anwar All Sarkarhabib ... on 11 January, 1952

Equivalent citations: 1952 AIR 75, 1952 SCR 284

Author: M P Sastri

Bench: Sastri, M. Patanjali (Cj), Fazal Ali, Saiyid, Mahajan, Mehr Chand, Mukherjea, B.K., Das, S.R. & Aiyar, N.C. & Bose, Vivian


Article 14 of our Constitution, it is well known, corresponds to the last portion of section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the American Constitution except that our article 14 has also adopted the English doctrine of rule of law by the addition of the words "equality before the law." It has not, however, been urged before us that the addition of these extra words has made any substantial difference in its practical application. The meaning, scope and effect of article 14 of our Constitution have been discussed and laid down by this Court in the case of Chiranjit Lal Chowdhury v. The Union of India and Others (1). Although Sastri J., as he then was, and myself differed from the actual deci- sion of the majority of the Court, there was no disagree- ment between us and the majority as to the principles underlying the provisions of article 14. The difference of opinion in that case was not so much on the principles to be applied as to the effect of the application of such principles. Those principles were again considered and summarised by this Court in The State of Bombay v.F.N. Balsara (2). It is now well established that while arti- cle 14 is designed to prevent a person or class of persons from being singled out from others similarly situated for the purpose of being specially subjected to discriminating and hostile legislation, it does not insist on an "abstract symmetry" in the sense that every piece of legislation must have universal application. All persons are not, by nature, attainment or circumstances, equal and the varying needs of different classes of persons often require separate treatment and, therefore, the protecting clause has been construed as a guarantee against discrimi- nation amongst equals only and not as taking away from the State the power to classify persons for the purpose of legislation. This classification may be on different bases. It may be geographical or according to objects or occupa- tions or the like. Mere classification, however, is not enough to get over the inhibition of the Article. 'The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that is to say, it must not only be based on some quali- ties 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 that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. The differ- entia which is the basis of the classification and the object of the Act are distinct things and what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between them. In short, while the Article forbids class legislation in the sense of making improper discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing liabilities upon persons arbitrarily selected out of a large number of other persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to be conferred or the liability proposed to be imposed, it does not forbid classification for the purpose of legislation, provided such classification is not arbitrary in the sense I have just explained. The doctrine, as expounded by this Court in the two cases I have mentioned, leaves a considerable latitude to the Court in the matter of the application of article 14 and consequently has the merit of flexibility.



Discrimination may not appear in the statute itself but may be evident in the administration of the law. If an uncontrolled or unguided power is conferred without any reasonable and proper standards or limits being laid down in the enactment, the statute itself may be challenged and not merely the particular administrative act. Citing the case of Sunday Lake Iron Co. v. Wakefield, Rogers v. Alabama and Concordia Fire Ins. Co. v. Illinois, Prof. Weaver says at page 404 of his compendious book on Constitutional Law under the heading of ' DISCRIMINATION IN THE ADMiNiSTRATION OF THE LAWS':--


"Discrimination may exist in the administration of the laws and it is the purpose of the equal protection clause to secure all the inhabitants of the state from intentional and arbitrary discrimination arising in their improper or preju- diced execution, as well as by the express terms of the law itself. The validity or invalidity of a statute often depends on how it is construed and applied. It may be valid when given a particular application and invalid when given another."


A difficulty was suggested and discussed in the course of the arguments in case article 14 was to receive a very wide interpretation. Under article 12 of the Constitution, even a local authority comes within the defi- nition of "the State" and section 13 provides in sub-clause (3) that "'law' includes any ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification............ " Therefore any ordinance or notification issued by a local authority acting under the powers conferred on it by a statute might be challenged as discriminatory and if this is permitted, the work of administration might be paralysed altogether. This, no doubt, is a possible result but the difficulty envisaged is by no means insurmountable. If the statute or the enact- ment makes a reasonable or rational classification and if the power conferred by the statute on a local authority is exercised to the prejudice of a person visa vis other per- sons similarly situated, two answers would be possible. One is that there was no discrimination at all in the exercise of the power. The second is that the power was exercised in good faith within the limitations imposed by the Act and for the achievement of the objects the enactment had in view and that the person who alleges that he has been discriminated against will have to establish mala fides in the sense that the step was taken intentionally for the purpose of injuring him; in other words, it was a hostile act directed against him. If the legislation itself is open to attack on the ground of discrimination, the question of any act done by a local or other authority under the power or powers vested in it will not arise. If the Act itself is invalid on the ground that it is ultra vires, the notification, ordinance, or rule falls to the ground with it, but if the Act remains, the validity of the notification or order etc., when im- pugned, may have to be considered independently. There may be cases where individual acts of state offi- cials are questioned and not the legislation itself. As regards such cases, Willoughby states at page 1932 of his Volume III on the Constitution of the United States :--


"It is, however, to be observed in this connection, that the prohibitions apply to the acts of State officials even when they are done in pursuance of some State legislative direction, for, while no constitutional objection may be made to any law of the State, it has been held that its officials may exercise their public authority in such a discriminatory or arbitrary manner as to bring them within the scope of the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment. This, it will be remembered, was one of the grounds upon which, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (118 U.S. 356) it was held that due process of law had been denied. In Tarrance v. Florida (188 U.S. 519) the administration of a State law and not the law itself was challenged and the court said: 'Such an actual discrimination is as potential in creating a denial of equality of rights as a discrimina- tion made by law.'"


There is only one other point that I would like to deal with. Trevor Harries C.J. has taken the view that section 5 of the Act would have been unexceptionable had it only provided for the trial by a Special Court of certain of- fences or classes of offences or certain classes of cases and that in his opinion the discrimination arose by the provision for the trial of cases, as distinguished from classes of cases. It is rather difficult, however, to appreciate this distinction. If the statute makes no classi- fication at all, or if the classification purported to be made is not reasonable or rational but is arbitrary and illusory, as in this case, Section 5 would be void as con- travening article. 14. It is no doubt true that totally different considerations might arise if specified offences or groups of offences in a particular area or arising out of a particular event or incident were to be,tried by a Special Court but this is not the case here. I am unable to see how if the Act merely provided that certain "classes of cases" as distinguished from "cases" should be tried by a Special Court, the attack against discrimination could be avoided, as even then the test of rationality or reasonableness would still remain to be satisfied. If the Act does not enunciate any principle on the basis of which the State Government could select offences or classes of offences or cases or classes of cases and the State Government is left free to make any arbitrary selection according to their will and pleasure then the Act is void. On this point, I would invite special attention to the view taken by Mr. Justice Das Gupta in the following passage of his Judgment:--


"The Act lays down no principle on which selection of "classes of offences" or "classes of cases" should be made by the State Government. The State Government may even arbitrarily determine the classes of cases to be tried by the Special Court and if it does so its action will be well within its powers conferred by the Act. The Act indicates no basis whatsoever on which such classification should be made. I am of opinion that the whole Act is ultra vires the Constitution and deletion of the word "cases" from section 5 would not save the rest of the Act from being invalid."


Bose J.--We are concerned here with article 14 of the Constitution and in particular with the words "equality before the law" and "equal protection of the law." Now I yield to none in my insistence that plain unambiguous words in a statute, or in the Constitution, must having regard to the context, be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning and be given full effect. But that predicates a position where the words are plain and unambiguous. I am clear that that is not the case here.


Take first the words "equality before the law". It is to be observed that equality in the abstract is not guaran- teed but only equality before the law. That at once leads to the question, what is the law, and whether "the law" does not draw distinctions between man and man and make for inequalities in the sense of differentiation? One has only to look to the differing personal laws which are applied daily to see that it does; to trusts and foundations from which only one particular race or community may benefit, to places of worship from which all but members of particular faith are excluded, to cemeteries and towers of silence which none but the faithful may use, to the laws of property, marriage and divorce. All that is part and parcel of the law of the land and equality before it in any literal sense is impossible unless these laws are swept away, but that is not what the Constitution says, for these very laws are preserved and along with equality before the law is also guaranteed the right to the practice of one's faith.


Then, again, what does "equality" mean? All men are not alike. Some are rich and some are poor. Some by the mere accident of birth inherit riches, others are born to pover- ty. There are differences in social standing and economic status. High sounding phrases cannot alter such fundamental facts. It is therefore impossible to apply rules of abstract equality to conditions which predicate in equality from the start; and yet the words have meaning though in my judgment their true content is not to be gathered by simply taking the words in one hand and a dictionary in the other, for the provisions of the Constitution are not mathematical formula which have their essence in mere form. They constitute a frame-work of government written for men of fundamentally differing opinions and written as much for the future as the present. They are not just pages from a text book but form the means of ordering the life of a progressive people. There is consequently grave danger in endeavouring to confine them in watertight compartments made up of ready- made generalisations like classification. I have no doubt those tests serve as a rough and ready guide in some cases but they are not the only tests, nor are they the true tests on a final analysis.


What, after all, is classification? It is merely a systematic arrangement of things into groups or classes, usually in accordance with some definite scheme. But the scheme can be anything and the laws which are laid down to govern the grouping must necessarily be arbitrarily select- ed; also granted the right to select, the classification can be as broadbased as one pleases, or it can be broken down and down until finally just one solitary unit is divided off from the rest. Even those who propound this theory are driven to making qualifications. Thus, it is not enough merely to classify but the classification must not be 'discriminatory', it must not amount to 'hostile action', there must be 'reasonable grounds for distinction', it must be 'rational' and there must be no 'substantial discrimination'. But what then becomes of the classification? and who are to be the judges of the reasonableness and the substantiality or otherwise of the discrimination? And, much more important, whose stand- ards of reasonableness are to be applied? --the judges'?--the government's?--or that of the mythical ordi- nary reasonable man of law which is no single man but a composite of many men whose reasonableness can be measured and gauged even though he can neither be seen nor heard nor felt? With the utmost respect I cannot see how these vague generalisations serve to clarify the position. To my mind they do not carry us one whit beyond the original words and are no more satisfactory than saying that all men are equal before the law and that all shall be equally treated and be given equal protection. The problem is not solved by sub- stituting one generalisation for another. To say that the law shall not be discriminatory carries us nowhere for unless the law is discriminatory the question cannot arise. The whole problem is to pick out from among the laws which make for differentiation the ones which do not offend article 14 and separate them from those which do. It is true the word can also be used in the sense of showing favouritism, but in so far as it means that, it suffers from the same defect as the 'hostile action' test. We are then compelled to import into the question the element of motive and delve into the minds of those who make the differentia- tion or pass the discriminatory law and thus at once substi- tute a subjective test for an objective analysis. I would always be slow to impute want of good faith in these cases. I have no doubt that the motive, except in rare cases, is beyond reproach and were it not for the fact that the Constitution demands equality of treatment these laws would, in my opinion, be valid. But that apart. What material have we for delving into the mind of a legislature? It is useless to say that a man shall be judged by his acts, for acts of this kind can spring from good motives as well as bad, and in the absence of other material the presumption must be overwhelmingly in favour of the former.


I can conceive of cases where there is the utmost good faith and where the classification is scientific and ration- al and yet which would offend this law. Let us take an imaginary case in which a State legislature considers that all accused persons whose skull measurements are below a certain standard, or who cannot pass a given series of intelligence tests, shall be tried summarily whatever the offence on the ground that the less complicated the trial the fairer it is to their sub-standard of intelli- gence. Here is classification. It is scientific and systematic. The intention and motive are good. There is no question of favouritism, and yet I can hardly believe that such a law would be allowed to stand. But what would be the true basis of the decision? Surely simply this that the judges would not consider that fair and proper. However much the real ground of decision may be hidden behind a screen of words like 'reasonable', 'substantial', 'rational' and 'arbitrary' the fact would remain that judges are sub- stituting their own judgment of what is right and proper and reasonable and just for that of the legislature; and up to a point that, I think, is inevitable when a judge is called upon to crystallise a vague generality like article 14 into a concrete concept. Even in England, where Parliament is supreme, that is inevitable, for, as Dicey tells us in his Law of the Constitution, "Parliament is the supreme legislator, but from the moment Parliament has uttered its will as lawgiver, that will becomes subject to the interpretation put upon it by the judges of the land, and the judges, who are influenced by the feelings of magistrates no less than by the general spirit of the common law, are disposed to construe statutory exceptions to common law principles in a mode which would not commend itself either to a body of officials, or to the Houses of Parliament, if the Houses were called upon to interpret their own enact- ments."



Supreme Court of India

In Re: The Special Courts Bill, ... vs Unknown on 1 December, 1978

The scope, content and meaning of Article 14 of the Constitution has been the subject-matter of intensive examination by this Court in a catena of decisions. It would, therefore, be merely adding to the length of this judgment to recapitulate all those decisions and it is better to avoid that exercise save and except referring to the latest decision on the subject in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India from which the following observation may be extracted:


"...... what is the content and reach of the great equalising principle enunciated in this article ? There can be no doubt that it is a founding faith of the Constitution. It is indeed the pillar on which rests securely the foundation of our democratic republic. And, therefore, it must not be subjected to a narrow, pedantic or lexicographic approach. No attempt should be made to truncate its all-embracing scope and meaning for, to do so would be to violate its activist magnitude. Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be imprisoned within traditional and doctrinaire limits..... Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in State action and ensures fairness and equality of treatment. The principle of reasonableness, which legally as well as philosophically, is an essential element of equality or non-arbitrariness pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipresence."

The decisions clearly lay down that though Art. 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification, two conditions must be fulfilled, viz., (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from those that are left out of the group; and (ii) that differentia must have a rational relation to the objects sought to be achieved by the statute in question. (see Shri Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Shri Justice S.R. Tendolkar & Others.(1) The classification may be founded on differential basis according to objects sought to be achieved but what is implicit in it is that there ought to be a nexus i.e., causal connection between the basis of classification and object of the statute under consideration. It is equally well settled by the decisions of this Court that Art. 14 condemns discrimination not only by a substantive law but also by a law of procedure.


After an exhaustive review of almost all decisions bearing on the question of Art. 14, this Court speaking through Chandrachud, C.J. in Re. Special Courts Bill (2) restated the settled propositions which emerged from the judgments of this Court undoubtedly insofar as they were relevant to the decision on the points arising for consideration in that matter. Four of them are apt and relevant for the present purpose and may be extracted. They are:


"3. The constitutional command to the State to afford equal protection of its laws sets a goal not attainable by the invention and application of a precise formula. Therefore, classification need not be constituted by an exact or scientific exclusion or inclusion of persons or things. The Courts should not insist on delusive exactness or apply doctrinaire tests for determining the validity of classification in any given case. Classification is justified if it is not palpably arbitrary.

4. The principle underlying the guarantee of Article 14 is not that the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons within the Indian territory or that the same remedies should be made available to them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to be applied to all in the same situation, and there should be no discrimination between one person and another if as regards the subject matter of the legislation their position is substantially the same.

6. The law can make and set apart the classes according to the needs and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience. It can recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never be arbitrary, artificial or evasive.

7. 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."

The other facet of Art. 14 which must be remembered is that it eschews arbitrariness in any form. Article 14 has, therefore, not to be held identical with the doctrine of classification. As was noticed in Maneka Gandhi's case in the earliest stages of evolution of the Constitutional law, Art. 14 came to be identified with the doctrine of classification because the view taken was that Art. 14 forbids discrimination and there will be no discrimination where the classification making the differentia fulfils the aforementioned two conditions. However, in EP. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu(1), it was held that the basic principle which informs both Arts. 14 and 16 is equality and inhibition against discrimination. This Court further observed as under:


"From a positivistic point of view, equality is antithetic to arbitrariness. In fact, equality and arbitrariness are sworn enemies; one belongs to the rule of law in a republic while the other, to the whim and caprice of an absolute monarch. Where an act is arbitrary it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is, therefore, violative of Art. 14, and if it affects any matter relating to public employment, it is also violative of Art. 16. Articles 14 and 16 strike at arbitrariness in State action and ensure fairness and equality of treatment.

Justice Iyer has in his inimitable style dissected Art.

14 as under:


"The article has a pervasive processual potency and versatile quality, equalitarian in its soul and allergic to discriminatory diktats. Equality is the antithesis of arbitrariness and ex cathedra ipse dixit is the ally of demagogic authoritarianism. Only knight- errants of 'executive excesses'-if we may use current cliche-can fall in love with the Dame of despotism, legislative or administrative. If this Court gives in here it gives up the ghost. And so it that I insist on the dynamics of limitations on fundamental freedoms as implying the rule of law; be you ever so high, the law is above you."(2) Affirming and explaining this view, the Constitution Bench in Ajay Hasia etc. v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi & others etc. (3) held that it must, therefore, now be taken to be well settled that what Art.14 strikes at is arbitrariness because any action that is arbitrary must necessarily involve negation of equality. The Court made it explicit that where an act is arbitrary it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is, therefore, violative of Art. 14. After a review of large number of decisions bearing on the subject, in Air India etc. etc. v. Nargesh Meerza & Ors. etc etc. (1) the Court formulated propositions emerging from analysis and examination of earlier decisions. One such proposition held well established is that Art. 14 is certainly attracted where equals are treated differently without any reasonable basis.


Thus the fundamental principle is that Art. 14 forbids class legislation but permits reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation which classification must satisfy the twin tests of classification being founded on an intelligible differntia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from those that are left out of the group and that differentia must have a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.


As a corrolary to this well established proposition, the next question is, on whom the burden lies to affirmatively establish the rational principle on which the classification is founded correlated to the object sought to be achieved ? The thrust of Art. 14 is that the citizen is entitled to equality before law and equal protection of laws. In the very nature of things the society being composed of unequals a welfare state will have to strive by both executive and legislative action to help the less fortunate in the society to ameliorate their condition so that the social and economic inequality in the society may be bridged. This would necessitate a legislation applicable to a group of citizens otherwise unequal and amelioration of whose lot is the object of state affirmative action. In the absence of doctrine of classification such legislation is likely to flounder on the bed rock of equality enshrined in Art. 14. The court realistically appraising the social stratification and economic inequality and keeping in view the guidelines on which the State action must move as constitutionally laid down in part IV of the Constitution, evolved the doctrine of classification. The doctrine was evolved to sustain a legislation or State action designed to help weaker sections of the society or some such segments of the society in need of succor. Legislative and executive action may accordingly be sustained if it satisfies the twin tests of reasonable classification and the rational principle correlated to the object sought to be achieved. The State, therefore, would have to affirmatively satisfy the Court that the twin tests have been satisfied. It can only be satisfied if the State establishes not only the rational principle on which classification is founded but correlate it to the objects sought to be achieved. This approach is noticed in Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. The International Airport Authority of India & Ors.(1) when at page 1034, the Court observed that a discriminatory action of the Government is liable to be struck down, unless it can be shown by the Government that the departure was not arbitrary, but was based on some valid principle which in itself was not irrational, unreasonable or discriminatory.


Supreme Court of India

Kathi Raning Rawat vs The State Of Saurashtra on 27 February, 1952

Equivalent citations: 1952 AIR 123, 1952 SCR 435

Author: M P Sastri

Bench: Sastri, M. Patanjali (Cj), Fazal Ali, Saiyid, Mahajan, Mehr Chand, Mukherjea, B.K., Aiyar, N.C. & Bose, Vivian & Das, S.R.


The Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures Ordinance,

1948, was passed "to provide for public safety, maintenance

of public order and preservation of peace and tranquillity

in the State of Saurashtra." As crimes involving violence

such as dacoity and murder were increasing, this Ordinance

was amended by the Saurashtra State Public Safety Measures

(Third Amendment) Ordinance, 1949, which, by secs. 9, 10 and

11, empowered the State Government by notification in the

official gazette to constitute Special Courts of criminal

Jurisdiction for such area as may be specified in the noti-

fication, to appoint Special Judges to preside over such

Courts and to invest them with jurisdiction to try such

offences or classes of offences or such eases or classes of

cases as the Government may, by general or special order in

writing, direct. The procedure laid down by

the Ordinance for trial before such Courts varied from the

normal procedure prescribed by the Criminal Procedure Code

in two material respects, viz., there was no provision for

trial by jury or with the aid of assessors, or for enquiry

before commitment to sessions. In exercise of the powers

conferred by this Ordinance the Government, by a notifica-

tion, constituted a Special Court for certain areas and

empowered that Court to try offences under sees. 183, 189,

302, 304, 307, 392 and certain other sections of the Indian

Penal Code which were specified in the notification.

It was contended on behalf of the appellant who had been

convicted by the Special Court under secs. 302, 307 and 392

of the Indian Penal Code read with sec. 34, that the Ordi-

nance of 1949 and the notification above-mentioned contra-