The Constitution of India grants fundamental rights to all the citizens of India, irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste or gender. Right to Equality is one of the six fundamental rights provided in the Constitution of India. Articles 14 to 18 of the Constitution states the provisions related to the Right to Equality. It forms the foundation of all the other rights and liberties. We shall now discuss all the provisions in detail.
Fundamental Rights – Right to Equality
As per the Constitution of India, all the citizens are equal and have the same fundamental rights. The Right to Equality ensures the following:
Equality before law (Article 14):
This article states that the law of the country equally protects all the people of the country. The State shall treat people in the same circumstances alike within the territory of India. It also implies that law shall treat individuals differently under different circumstances.
Prohibition of discrimination on any grounds (Article 15):
This article states that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. All the people of the country shall have equal rights to access public places like public parks, roads, museums, wells, bathing ghats, etc.
However, the State has powers to make any special provision for women and children. The State also reserves a right to make special provisions for the advancements of any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.
Equality in matters of public employment (Article 16):
As per this article, every person has an equal opportunity in the matters of public employment. Thus, the State cannot discriminate against any person on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or residence or any of them.
All Indian citizens can equally apply to the public sector or government jobs. However, there are some exceptions to this right.
Abolition of untouchability (Article 17):
This article states that the practice of untouchability is an offense and anyone guilty of doing so is punishable by law. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1976 lays down the penalties for stopping any person from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well.
Abolition of Titles (Article 18):
This article forbids the State from conferring any titles and also the citizens of India cannot accept titles from any foreign State. It also abolished the titles such as Rai Bahadur and Khan Bahadur conferred by the British.
However, Military and academic distinctions can be conferred upon. The awards such as Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan do not fall within the constitutional prohibition. Thus, they cannot be used by the recipient as a title.
Solved Example on Right to Equality
Q. What are the exceptions to the right of equality of opportunity in matters of public employment under Article 16?
Following are the exceptions as per Article 16:
- The Parliament may pass a law declaring that certain job posts to be filled only by applicants residing in the area. It may do so as those posts may require knowledge of the locality and language of the area.
- The State also possesses the right to reserve certain posts for the backward classes, scheduled castes or scheduled tribes. This provisions shall help to bring up the weaker sections of the society.
- The State may also enact a law stating that the holder of an office of any religious institution shall also be a person professing that particular religion.