What is Article 14: Right To Equality
Recently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) has been implemented in India. This law provides Indian citizenship to the migrants of six religious communities of three countries.
The enactment of the CAA is opposed by many Indian citizens, citing the reasons that it has granted Indian citizenship to six religious communities on the basis of religion while a particular religious community is excluded. So it's a clear cut violation of article 14. while other Indians think that CAA does not discriminate with others.
Now let us know all the provisions of article 14 in detail.
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that the state/country shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. This law is applicable to all citizens and foreigners.
To be more precise; the word ‘person’ includes; companies, statutory corporations, registered societies or any other type of legal person.
It is important to know the above mentioned two words 'equality before the law' and 'equal protection of laws'.
Equality before Law: This term is taken from the constitution of England which means;
I. Equal treatment for all persons before the court. That is, the law will be blind, it will not see who is standing in the dock; rich or poor.
II. There shall not be any privilege for any particular person. It means, everyone will get the same punishment for the same crime.
III. No person (be it rich or poor, white or black, minister or servant) shall be above the law. It means the law will be the same for both the minister and the servant.
Equal protection of laws: Its provisions have been taken from the Constitution of America. The following provisions are given in it.
I. The similar application of the same laws to all persons who are similarly situated.
II. Equal treatment under equal circumstances, both in the privileges conferred and liabilities imposed by the laws.
III. All persons should be treated equally without any discrimination.
The Supreme Court believes that the rule of law written under Article 14 is the fundamental element of the Constitution. Therefore it cannot be abolished in any way even by amending the Constitution.
What are the Exceptions to Right to Equality:
It is not like that the ‘Rule of Equality’ applies thoroughly. There are some exceptions to this, that is why it does not apply in case of these circumstances and individuals.
I. No criminal proceeding shall be initiated or continued against the President or the governor in any court during his/her term of office.
II. No court can issue an arrest warrant of the President or Government during his/her term of office.
III. No member of state Legislature (MLA) shall be liable to any proceeding in any court in respect of any statement or any vote given by him in the state Legislature.
IV. No Member of Parliament (MP) shall be liable to any proceeding in any court in respect of any statement or any vote given by him in the Parliament.
V. The United Nations and its agencies also have diplomatic immunity.
VI. Foreign (sovereign ruler), ambassadors and diplomatic persons will be free from criminal and civil cases.
Article 14 and the Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA)
Since CAA has provisions to give citizenship to the migrants of 3 countries on the basis of religion and it does not include migrants of a particular community. It seems prima facie discrimination against a particular community.
Article 14 to 18 are related to ‘Right to Equality’ before the law. So article 14 and article 15 are inter-related. Article 15 states that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, caste, race, sex, and place of birth.
At present, the matter is pending in the Supreme Court and now the Apex court will decide whether the Citizenship Amendment Act violates Article 14 or not? I am nobody to decide the legal status of the Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA).