The Constitution of India consists of numerous fundamental rights available to citizens and some to non-citizens as well. One of them is the right to equality which is provided under Articles 14-18 of the Constitution of India. Article 14 contains the general principles of equality before the law. And Articles 15, 16, 17 and 18 include the detailed application of the general rules given under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
This law note discusses Article 15 of the Indian Constitution in detail. It is related to the prohibition of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, etc. The provisions under Article 15 is available only to the citizens and not to the non-citizens.
Article 15 of the Indian Constitution
Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India says that there should be no discrimination on the grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth or any of them. Article 15(2) further provides that the citizens, as well as the states, should not make such discrimination concerning access to shops, hotels, etc. and also to all places of public entertainment, wells, tanks, and more.
Article 15(3) and 15(4) are the restrictions to the provisions given under Article 15(1) and (2) of the Indian Constitution. Article 15(5) and 15(6) provide provisions related to the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes and weaker sections of the society as well.
Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution
Clause (1) of Article 15 prohibits the State from discriminating between the citizens of India on any of the following grounds:
(e) place of birth.
The word discrimination here means to make an adverse or unfavourable distinction between the persons.
In Nain Sukh Das vs State of UP (1953), the Court held unconstitutional a law that provided elections based on separate electorates for members of different religious communities.
Furthermore, the word only in clause (1) of Article 15 indicates that the prohibition is imposed for the discrimination merely on the particular grounds that are caste, sex, religion, place of birth, race. In other words, discrimination on grounds other than given under Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution is not prohibited.
In DP Joshi vs State of Madhya Bharat (1955), the Court has held valid a rule of the State Medical College whereby the non-Madhya Bharat students required a capitation fee for admission in the college. It was held in the case that a law that discriminates on the ground of residence does not violate Article 15(1).
Article 15(2) of the Indian Constitution
It states that citizens of India should not be subjected to any such discrimination explained above concerning access to shops, restaurants and hotels and places of public entertainment or the use of wells, roads, etc.
Clause (1) of Article 15 prohibits discrimination by the State, whereas clause (2) of Article 15 prohibits both the State and citizens from making such discrimination.
Article 15(3) of the Indian Constitution
Clause (3) of Article 15 contains an exception to the rule given under clauses (1) and (2) of Article 15. It empowers the State to make special provisions for women and children. It states that nothing in Article 15 should prevent the State from formulating any special provision for women and children. As an example, the reservation of seats for women does not violate Article 15(1).
Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution
Clause (4) of Article 15 is another exception to clauses (1) and (2) of Article 15. It was inserted into the Indian Constitution by the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951. It was the result of the judgment given in State of Madras vs Champakam Dorairajan (1951).
In this case, the Madras Government had reserved seats in medical and engineering colleges through government order for different communities in certain proportions based on religion, race and caste. The Supreme Court held the government order void as it classified the students based on caste, religion and race irrespective of merits.
The Article declares that the State should not be prevented by anything in Article 15 as well as Article 29(2) from making any special or particular provision for the betterment of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
The socially and educationally backward classes refer to underprivileged classes of people that have faced discrimination or bias from the privileged classes. This class may not necessarily fall under the category of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.
Note: A writ cannot be issued to the State to make reservations.
Article 15(4) Case Law: Dr Neelima vs Dean of P.G. studies A.P. Agriculture University, Hyderabad (1993)
In this case, it was held that a girl of a high caste who married a boy belonging to Scheduled Tribes is not eligible for the privilege of reservation available to Schedules Tribes as the girl originally belonged to a high caste. Merely marrying a boy of Scheduled Tribes will not make her eligible for the benefits reserved for them.
Article 15(5) of the Indian Constitution
Clause (5) was inserted in Article 15 by the Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005. It facilitates the State to make provision for reservation of the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in admission to private educational institutions.
Article 15(5) Case Law: Ashok Kumar Thakur vs Union of India (2008)
In this case, the Supreme Court has held that Article 15(5) is constitutional. It held that providing a 27 per cent reservation to OBC candidates for admissions in higher educational institutions like IITs and IIMs is constitutional and not violative of Articles 14 and 15.
Article 15(6) of the Indian Constitution
Clause (6) of Article 15 of the Indian Constitution is related to economically weaker sections of the society. It was added in 2019 by the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act. This clause empowers the State to make special provisions for the betterment and development of the economically weaker sections of the society. And, this also includes reservations in educational institutes.
1. Right to Information as a Fundamental Right
2. Fundamental Duties Explained – Indian Constitution
3. Important Articles of Constitution of India
4. Why 42nd Amendment Is Called the “Mini Constitution of India”
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