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Trending: Call for Papers Volume 3 | Issue 2: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]

Doctrine of Classification

Introduction

Article 14 in India’s Constitution guarantees the right to equality for every citizen of the country. It encompasses the general principles of equality before the law and prohibits unreasonable discrimination between two persons. It incorporates the idea of equality expressed in the preamble. [1] Article 14 declares that ‘the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of law within the territory of India.’. thus article 14 uses the two expressions “equality before law” and “equal protection of law”. The phrase “equality before law” find a place in almost in written constitution that guarantees fundamental right both these expression .both this expression aim at establishing what is called “equality of status” While both the expression are kind of identical but they don’t give similar meaning.[2]

Equality before Law

The term has its origin from America and is somewhat a negative concept aiming at the implication of an absence of some special privileges. This can be by the reason of birth, religion, sex, caste, etc. and by the ordinary law in favour of persons and all the equal subject of classes.

Equal Protection of Law

The term has its origin from Britain and is somewhat a positive concept aiming at equal treatment in identical situations. In other words, the President or the Prime Minister of the country should be dealt in the same manner in law as that of a common citizen.

Rule of Law

The Rule of Law in England called by Dicey is an aspect of the guarantee of equality before the law. This means that irrespective of the rank of a person, his condition would be subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts as no man is above law. It is a requirement of the rule of law that no man should be subjected to uncivilized, discriminatory and harsh treatment. This would be applicable even when the objective is to secure a paramount need of law and order.[3] By incorporating in Article 14, the British doctrine of rule of law as propounded by Prof. Dicey and the “equal protection of law” clause of 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, the framers of our Constitution had in their zeal infused extra vigour and vitality in the right to equality.[4]

Rule Of Law In India :

1. Supremacy of Law:

The First meaning of the Rule of Law is that ‘no man is punishable or can lawfully be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. It implies that a man may be punished for a breach of law but cannot be punished for anything else. No man can be punished except for a breach of law. An alleged offence is required to be proved before the ordinary courts in accordance with the ordinary procedure.

2. Equality before Law:-

The Second meaning of the Rule of Law is that no man is above law. Every man whatever be his rank or condition is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. Everybody under Article 14 is equal before law and have equal protection.

3. Individual Liberty

Lot of individual liberty is mention like fundamental right in Article 21- protection of life and personal liberty, article 19- Right to freedom etc. And courts are their to protect individual liberty.

The first and second aspect apply to Indian system but the third aspect of the diceys rule of law does not apply to Indian system as the source of right of individuals is the constitution of India. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and all laws passed by the legislature must be consistent with provisions of the constitution
The rule of law impose a duty upon state to take special measure to prevent and punish brutality by police methodology. The rule of law embodied in article 14 is the basic feature of the Indian constitution and hence it can’t be destroyed even by an amendment of the constitution under article 368 of the constitution.[5]

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE OF EQUALITY

Under Art. 359, when the proclamation of emergency is in operation, the enforcement of Art. 14 may be suspended during that period. Art. 361 provides that president and governors shall not be answerable to any Court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of the office. They also enjoy immunity from criminal and civil proceedings until certain conditions are fulfilled.
Members of Parliament and of State Legislature are not liable in respect of anything done or said within the House (Arts. 105 and 194). Foreign Diplomats are immune from the jurisdiction of Courts. Art. 31 C forms an exception by excluding some laws [for implementing any of the directive principles specified in Art. 39(b) or (c)] from the purview of Art. 14.

EQUAL PROTECTION OF LAWS

It is a guarantee of equal treatment. An equal law should be applied with an equal hand to all persons who are the equals. The rule is that the like should be treated alike and not that unlike should be treated alike. The same or uniform treatment of unequal’s is as bad as unequal treatment of equals. It has been said that the equal protection of the law is a pledge of protection or guarantee of equal laws.
The rule of law imposes a duty upon the state to take special measure to prevent and punish brutality by police methodology. The Rule of Law embodied in Article 14 is the ‘basic feature’ of the Indian Constitution and hence it cannot be destroyed even by an amendment of the Constitution under Article 368 of the Constitution.[6]

Article 14 Permits Classification But Prohibits Class Legislation

The equal protection of laws guaranteed by Article 14 does not mean that all laws must be general in character. It does not mean that the same laws should apply to all persons. It does not attainment or circumstances in the same position. The varying needs of different classes of persons often requires separate treatment. From the vary nature of society there should be different laws in different places and the legitimate controls the policy and enacts laws in the best interest of the safety and security of the state. In fact identical treatment in unequal circumstances would amount to inequality. So a reasonable classification is only not permitted but is necessary if society is to progress.

Thus what Article 14 forbids is class-legislation but it does not forbid reasonable classification. The classification however must not be “arbitrary ,artificial or evasive” but must be based on some real and substantial bearing a just and reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation. Article 14 applies where equals are treated differently without any reasonable basis. But where equals and unequal’s are treated differently, Article 14 does not apply. Class legislation is that which makes an improper discrimination by conferring particular privileges upon a class of persons arbitrarily selected from a large number of persons all of whom stand in the same relation to the privilege granted that between whom and the persons not so favoured no reasonable distinction or substantial difference can be found justifying the inclusion of one and the exclusion of the other from such privilege.[7]

TEST OF REASONABLE CLASSIFICATION

Article 14 forbids class legislation; it does not forbid reasonable classification of persons, objects, and transactions by the Legislature for the purpose of achieving specific ends. Classification to be reasonable should fulfil the following two tests:
1. It should not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive. It should be based on an intelligible differentia, some real and substantial distinction, which distinguishes persons or things grouped together in the class from another left out of it.
2. The differentia adopted as the basis of classification must have a rational or reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.[8]
The true meaning and scope of the right to equality [Article 14 in India] have been explained in a number of cases by the Indian Supreme Court. The propositions laid down in Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Tendolkar (1958) case still hold good governing a valid classification and are as follows.

1. A law may be constitutional even though it relates to a single individual if on account of some special circumstances or reasons applicable to him and not applicable to others, that single individual may be treated as a class by itself.
2. There is always presumption in favour of the constitutionality of a statute and the burden is upon him who attacks it to show that there has been a clear transgression of constitutional principles.
3. The presumption may be rebutted in certain cases by showing that on the fact of the statue, there is no classification 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.
4. It must be assumed that Legislature correctly understands and appreciates the need of its own people that its law are directed to problem made manifest by experience and that its discrimination are based on adequate grounds.
5. In order to sustain the presumption of constitutionality the court may take into consideration maters of common knowledge, matters of report, the history of the times and may assume every state of facts which can be conceived existing at the time of the legislation.
6. Thus the legislation is free to recognize degrees of harm and may confine its restriction to those cases where the need is deemed to be the clearest.
7. While good faith and knowledge of the existing conditions on the part of a legislature are to be presumed, if there is nothing on the face of the law or the surrounding circumstances brought to the notice of the court on which the classification may reasonably be regarded as based, the presumption of constitutionality cannot be carried to the extent always that there must be some undisclosed and unknown reason for subjecting certain individuals or corporation to be hostile or discriminating legislation
8. The classification may be made on different bases e.g. geographical or according to object or occupation or the like.
9. The classification made by the legislature need not be scientifically perfect or logically complete. Mathematical nicety and perfect equality are not required.
Equality before the law does not require mathematical equality of all persons in all circumstances. Equal treatment does not mean identical treatment. Similarly not identity of treatment is enough.
10. There can be discrimination both in the substantive as well as the procedural law. Article 14 applies to both. If the classification satisfies the test laid down in the above propositions, the law will be declared constitutional. The question whether a classification is reasonable and proper and not must however, be judged more on common-sense than on legal subtitles.[9]
In State of West Bengal V. Anwar Ali Sarkar AIR 1952 SC 75, was involved a Bengal law permitting setting up of special courts for the ‘speedier trial’ of such ‘offence’, or ‘classes of offences’ or ‘cases’, or ‘classes of cases’, as the State Government might direct by a general or special order. These courts were to follow a procedure less advantageous to the accused in defending himself than the procedure followed by the ordinary criminal courts.

The Act was held invalid as it made no reasonable classification, laid down “no yardstick or measure for the grouping either of persons or of cases or of offenses” so as to distinguish them from others outside the purviews of the Act. The government had the power to pick out a case of a person and hand it over to the special tribunal while leaving the case of another person similarly situated to be tried by the ordinary criminal courts. It gave ‘uncontrolled authority’ to the executive ‘to discriminate’. The necessity of ‘speedier trial’ was held to be too vague, uncertain and indefinite criterion to form the basis of a valid and reasonable classification.[10]

In the case of R.K.Garg v. Union of India 1982 133 ITR 239 SC, the constitutional validity of Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exception) Act, 1981 was under challenge. The legislation was enacted by the Indian Parliament, with the object of putting to productive use, the unaccounted money held by citizens. In furtherance of this, the Government, proposed to issue instruments called Special Bearer Bonds and provided incentives for people to invest in them. The controversial provisions of this legislation were section.3 and section.4, which provided that, any person who subscribes to these bonds will not be required to disclose the source of money for his investment in such bonds and he will not be interrogated or subjected to any investigation, or admissible as evidence in any inquiry or proceedings or levied any penalty on the basis of his investment. The Act was challenged inter alia on the ground that it made an unreasonable classification between persons who illegally evaded payment of tax as against those who abided by the law. It was argued that such a provision in the law was against morality as it afforded tax evaders, immunities and exemptions, and placed them at an advantageous position in comparison to those who abided by the law. Unfortunately, by a majority of four against one, the Bench brushed aside this contention, and held that morality was not an element to be considered while judging the constitutional validity of a statute.[11]

In Ashutosh Gupta v. State of Rajasthan, (2002) 4 SCC 34, accordingly, to apply the principle of equality in a practical manner, the courts have evolved the principle that if the law in question is based on rational classification, it is not regarded as discriminatory.[12]

In Re Special Courts Bill [1978(AIR 1979 SC 478)] , the Supreme Court has however warned against over-emphasis on classification. The Court has explained that ‘the doctrine of classification is only a subsidiary rule evolved by the courts to give practical content to the doctrine of equality, over-emphasis on the doctrine of classification or anxious or sustained attempt to discover some basis for classification may gradually and imperceptibly erode the profound potency of the glorious content of equity enshrined in Art. 14 of the Constitution. The over-emphasis of classification would inevitably result in the substitution of the doctrine of classification for the doctrine of equality.

If there are two laws covering a situation, one more drastic than the other, there is the danger of discrimination if the Administration has the discretion to apply any of these laws in a given case. Of the two persons placed in a similar situation, one may be dealt with under the drastic law and the other under the softer law. To minimize any chance of such discrimination, the court insists that the drastic law should lay down some rational and reasonable principle or policy to regulate administrative discretion as to its application. If the drastic law fails to do so, then it will be void under Art. 14.[13]

In Chiranjit Lal Chawdhary V. Union of India AIR 1950 SC 41, the petitioner approached the Supreme Court for the protection against the enforcement of a Central Act, the Sholapur Spinning and Weaving Co. (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1950. The petitioner was an ordinary shareholder of the Sholapur Spinning and Weaving Co. Ltd. On Account of mismanagement and neglect of the affairs of the Company, a situation had arisen that brought about the closing down of the mill. The action of the company prejudicially affected the production of an essential commodity, apart from causing serious unemployment amongst certain sections of the community. 

The Central Government thereupon issued an Ordinance which was later replaced by the above-mentioned Act. By this Act, the management and administration of the assets of the Company were placed under the control of the directors appointed by the government. As regards the shareholders, the Act declared that they could neither appoint a new director not could they take proceedings for the winding up of the Company. The contention of the petitioner was that the impugned Act infringed the rule of equal protection of the laws embodied in Article 14 because a single company and its shareholders were being subjected to disabilities vis-à-vis other companies and held the legislation validly.[14]

Conclusion

What article 14 forbids is discrimination by law that is treating persons similarly circumstanced differently and treating those not similarly circumstanced in the same way or as has been pithily put treating equals as unequal’s and unequal’s as equals. Article 14 prohibits hostile classification by law and is directed against discriminatory class legislation. Article 14 contains a guarantee of equality before law to all persons and protection to them against discrimination by law. It forbids class legislation. 

References :

· Diva Rai, ‘Reasonable Classification and its Validity Under Article 14’, https://blog.ipleaders.in/reasonable-classification-and-its-validity-under-article-14/amp/, accessed 14 April 2020
· Shiksha, ‘Reasonable Classification under article 14’, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1061/Reasonable-Classification-under-article-14.html, accessed 14 April 2020
· V. K. Sircar, ‘The old and New doctrines of equality : A critical study of Nexus tests and doctrine of Non- Arbitrariness’, http://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/91v3a1.htm, accessed 15 April 2020
· Monika, ‘RIGHT TO EQUALITY UNDER ARTICLE 14 OF CONSTITUTION’, 05 March 2017, https://www.legalbites.in/law-notes-constitution-right-to-equality-under-article-14-of-constitution/ accessed 15 April 2020
· ‘Right to Equality – Doctrine of Reasonable Classification’, https://tyrocity.com/topic/right-equality-doctrine-reasonable-classification/ accessed 15 April 2020
· ‘The Supreme Court of India – Morally Speaking the Moral Background’, 02-02-18, https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/constitutional-law/the-supreme-court-of-india-morally-law-essays.php accessed 15 April 2020
· ‘1st JAGANNATH MEMORIAL NATIONAL MOOT COURT COMPETITION, 2019’, https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.legalbites.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/JMNMCC04-A.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjpq92Qi-roAhWBILcAHfWjDNg4FBAWMAB6BAgHEAE&usg=AOvVaw0DuVe9PYcbcsoHk9jll1Rz accessed 15 April 2020
[1] Diva Rai, ‘Reasonable Classification and its Validity Under Article 14’, https://blog.ipleaders.in/reasonable-classification-and-its-validity-under-article-14/amp/, accessed 14 April 2020
[2] Shiksha, ‘Reasonable Classification under article 14’, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1061/Reasonable-Classification-under-article-14.html accessed 14 April 2020
[3] Supra note, 1
[4] V. K. Sircar, ‘The old and New doctrines of equality : A critical study of Nexus tests and doctrine of Non- Arbitrariness’, http://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/91v3a1.htm, accessed 15 April 2020
[5] Supra note 2
[6] Monika, ‘RIGHT TO EQUALITY UNDER ARTICLE 14 OF CONSTITUTION’, 05 March 2017, https://www.legalbites.in/law-notes-constitution-right-to-equality-under-article-14-of-constitution/ accessed 15 April 2020
[7] Supra note 2
[8] Supra note 6
[9] ‘Right to Equality – Doctrine of Reasonable Classification’, https://tyrocity.com/topic/right-equality-doctrine-reasonable-classification/ accessed 15 April 2020
[10] Supra note 6.
[11] ‘The Supreme Court of India – Morally Speaking the Moral Background’, 02-02-18, https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/constitutional-law/the-supreme-court-of-india-morally-law-essays.php accessed 15 April 2020
[12] ‘1st JAGANNATH MEMORIAL NATIONAL MOOT COURT COMPETITION, 2019’, https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.legalbites.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/JMNMCC04-A.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjpq92Qi-roAhWBILcAHfWjDNg4FBAWMAB6BAgHEAE&usg=AOvVaw0DuVe9PYcbcsoHk9jll1Rz accessed 15 April 2020
[13] Supra note 6
[14] Ibid.

Author: Aafreen Manzoor

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