Equal Protection of Laws Article 14

  1. Introduction
  2. Origin
  3. 14th Amendment of USA Constitution
  4. Case Laws of American Supreme Court
    1. Plessy vs. Ferguson
    1. Brown vs. Board of Education
  5. Equal protection of law in India
  6. Is equal protection of law & Equality before law different?
    1. West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkar
  7. Conclusion

Introduction-

The concept of equality is the one without which no one can live life fully. It is the duty of the State to promote equality.

As we know that provisions of Indian Constitution is adopted from many countries. Same happen with the Article 14.

There were two key terms in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. They are – Equality before law and Equal Protection of law. One is taken from the British and the other from American.

However the term Equal protection of law is not that simple as we seem it. The equality we have today is due to the struggle of Blacks in America. It is also due to the proper interpretation of American and Indian Supreme Court.

In this article we will see that how these provision emergent and then gain their true meaning.

Origin-

The concept of equal protection of laws was emerged in USA. It is the dream of 16th president of US, Abraham Lincoln.

He said during his speech in Chicago, 1858 that-

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created equal.”

14th Amendment of USA Constitution-

The Equal protection clause was added by the 14th amendment in 1868. It is added to validate the equality provision in USA. Previously it was guaranteed by Civil Rights Act 1866. As there is so much racisms in USA this clause is essential.

However, the meaning of equal protection of law becomes a debatable topic there.

Case Laws of American Supreme Court-

Plessy vs. Ferguson[1]

In this case the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ was established. It upheld the constitutional validity of racial segregation. It said that equal law will apply to people in different circumstances.

The facts of the case were- Plessy was a black and he was travelling through a train. Due to some reasons he sits on the white’s coach. At that time in America train coaches were different for black and white. Plessy was thrown out of the train as he was black.

He challenged this as a violative of 14th amendment of US constitution. However court held that there is equal protection of laws that is equal but separate treatment.

This doctrine continues and stays valid for next 58 years.

Brown vs. Board of Education[2]

In this case the judgment of Plessy’s case was overruled.

The court held in this case that different schools for black and white were violative of 14th amendment of US constitution, even if they have equal facilities. Also ‘doctrine of separate but equal’ is also violative of this.

The facts of the case were-the district school refused to enroll Brown’s daughter to his school as she is a black. Also said that they have separate school with similar facilities. Hence Brown challenges this as violative of 14th amendment.

The court said that such kind of discrimination and unequal behavior is clear violative of principal of equality. The 14th amendment does not mean separate treatment; it means same treatment with all.

Equal protection of law in India-

So after successful implementation of Equal protection of law in US, India adopted this to our constitution in Article 14.

We adopted equal protection of law with equality before law. In India there is no issue with the meaning of Equal protection of law. However it is debatable as it same of different from equality before law that we adopted from Britain.

Dicey in his book Law of the Constitution said that the concept of equal protection of law is more positive concept implying equal treatment in equal circumstances.

Is equal protection of law & Equality before law different?

West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkar[3]

In this case Justice Patanjali Shastri, held that it is difficult to imagine a situation in which the violation of the equal protection of laws will not violate the equality before law. Hence it is held that both expressions are same.

Conclusion-

The right to equality is guaranteed to every citizen and it prohibits any unreasonable discrimination.

We have adopted the two terms from two different countries. But they mean the same. Equality is Equality, irrespective of the word used. Both the terms in Article 14 mean the same.


[1] 163 US 537(1896)

[2] 347 US 483(1954)

[3] AIR 1952 SC 75

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