top of page

Article 14 And Article 15- Similarities And Differences

“Fundamental rights belong to the human being just because you are a human being.”- Desmond Tutu


The right to equality is the need of the hour and it is necessary to learn about the rights in detail. This article aims to provide the main concepts and judgments regarding Article 14 and Article 15. This article also tends to bring out the similarities and differences between these two articles as it is important to understand the difference to apply them.


Fundamental rights are an important aspect of the Indian Constitution. The rights guaranteed in Part III of the Indian Constitution ensure the liberty of the individuals and the maintenance of public peace. These rights are essential to every citizen of the country and in certain cases, it applies also to foreigners; the idea of fundamental rights is borrowed from the United States of India, as you are already aware that our Constitution has been taken ideas and inspiration from various countries. “Right to equality” is an imperative right that ensures the development of the citizens and the country Article 14 to Article 18 of the Indian Constitution deals with the right to equality. Article 14 and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution are the main provisions in the Indian Constitution which guarantee this right. Thus, it is necessary to understand the main concepts, differences, and similarities between these two articles.


Article 14 of the Indian Constitution deals with equality before the law. According to Article 14, every person is equal before the law and the state shall not deny any person equality and equal protection of laws with the Indian Territory. This right is always viewed as a positive right as they provide instructions to the state to protect and promote equality among the citizens of our country. The term ’person’ in the Article is not only concerned with human beings it also includes companies, registered societies, and all the other kinds of legal persons[1].

The right is not guaranteed absolutely, the reasonable classification is an acceptable exception. There are certain tests for reasonable classification. If it is found by the courts, that the test of reasonable classification is not satisfied then it considered as a violation of Article 14. In the case of D.S.Nakara v.Union of India[2], the rule 34 of the Central Services rules that were repealed later was apprehended to be violating Article 14 and thus unconstitutional as there was no rational and reasonable classification.

There is a prohibition for class legislation in Article 14 but the reasonable classification is permitted.  This Article is one of the key articles and it has to be interpreted widely and there should not be any narrow interpretation.[3]

There is another famous case, Air India v. Nargesh Meerza[4], which explains the concept of reasonable classification in a detailed manner. According to the facts of the case, there was certain regulation by Air India that said that women air hostess had to retire from her job once she turns 35 and her employment will also be terminated after the first pregnancy. These classifications were held to be unreasonable and arbitrary and the regulation by the airlines was a gross violation of Article 14 and it was held to be unconstitutional.

The case of John Vallamattom v. Union of India[5]is another famous case in this regard which deals with the reasonable classification under Article 14. This case questioned section 118 of the Indian Succession Act, where there was an illegal classification regarding Christians, The court held the rule was not valid as there is no reasonable nexus.

The rule of law in this Article is termed to be the basic feature of the constitution and thus making this article extremely vital. The rule of law cannot be shattered or amended even using the powers under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution. With every new judgment, there is a new dimension that is being extended to this Article and the scope of the Article is being increased.


Article 15 of the Indian Constitution is another article which ensures the right to equality to the citizens. There are four clauses in the Article. Clause (1) of this Article prohibits discrimination by the State. It states the state cannot discriminate against citizens on various grounds. The various grounds that are mentioned in the Article are religion, race, caste, and sex.

Clause (2) of this article provides access to shops and places of public entertainment to everyone and no one can be prohibited from accessing them based on religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. This clause also ensures that various places like wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads, and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or committed to the utilization of the general public. This clause means there should be no discrimination and everyone must have equal access to the public property. This Article does not encourage untouchability and discrimination basis on caste, religion, and sex.

Clause 3 of this Article provides power to the State for making new special provisions for the development of women and children and nothing in this Article will prevent the powers of the State. In the case of  Govt. of A.P. v. P.B. Vijayakumar[6] , the meaning of “special provision” in this clause was discussed, it was held that “this “special provision”, which the State may make to improve women’s participation in all activities under the supervision and control of the State can be in the form of either affirmative action or reservation.”  This clause is aimed to promote women’s empowerment and welfare of the children.

Clause 4 of Article 15 is concerned with making unique provisions for the expansion and progress of any publicly and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST). According to clause 4, nothing provided in clause 2 of Article 15 and Article 29 can put a stop to this authority of creating special provisions. The reservations for the advancement of various communities are created based on clause 4 of this Article.

The case Indra Sawhney vs Union of India[7] is very important in this regard. In this case, the idea of reservation was discussed vastly and 27% reservation for the ‘Other Backward Classes’(OBC) was introduced by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also came up with some guidelines to increase the reservation in certain unexpected and extraordinary situations.

In the case of G.M. Southern Railways v. Rangachari, [8]held Article 15(4) of the Constitution of India to be an exception to Article 15(1). In this case, it was held that “Article 15(4) which provides, inter alia, for an exception to the prohibition of discrimination on grounds specified in Article 15(1) lays down that nothing contained in the said Article shall prevent the State  from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”

It was again said in the case of M.R. Balaji v. the State of Mysore that it is an exception to Article 29 and 15(1). In this case, it was held that “Thus, there is no doubt that Article 15(4) has to be read as a proviso or an exception to Articles 15(1) and 29(2).”


There are certain differences between these two articles. Article 14 is viewed as a positive concept where Article 15 is viewed as a negative concept. Article 14 applies to everyone that is to both citizens and foreigners who are not the citizens of the enemy country where Article 15 applies only to the citizens of the country. The two articles are also related to the fact that they both deal with the right to equality and promote the concept of equality. It is said that Article 15 acquires its powers from Article 14 Article 15 tries to achieve the aim of Article 14 by providing legislation that treats the equals equally.  Thus “Article 15 is an instance and particular application of the right of equality provided for in Article 14”. “While Article 14 guarantees the general right, Articles 15 and 16 are instances of the same right in favor of citizens in some special circumstances”[9]


Article 14 provides the general right and Article 15 is an application of Article 14. It is very important to treat the citizens equally especially the people placed in a similar situation must be treated equally. These two articles guarantee equality among the citizens and pave the way for maintaining the security and personal liberty of the individuals. Thus, these two Articles are prime components of the Indian Constitution and their application should be proper and there should not be an inflexible interpretation.

Case Laws:

[1] Indira Sawhney and Ors v. Union of India, A.I.R 1993 S.C 477

[2] A.I.R 1983 130

[3] E.P Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another, A.I.R. 1974, S.C.555

[4] A.I.R 1981, 1829

[5] (2003) 6 SCC 611

[6] (1995) 4 SCC 520

[7] A.I.R 1993 S.C 477

[8] A.I.R 1962 S.C 36

[9] Dasaratha v. State of A.P., A.I.R 1961 S.C 564






bottom of page