This blog is written by Hargun Kaur, a second-year law student pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) from Lovely Professional University. This article analyzes various prospects of Article 15 of the Indian Constitution.
The Indian Constitution is the longest-written constitution in the entire globe. Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution are some important human rights that all citizens are entitled to. Article 15 is one of the important Fundamental Right under Right to Equality which is available only to the citizens . Article 15 outlines a specific way that the broad idea in article 14 can be used . The appropriateness of the classification shall be evaluated under article 14 when the discrimination is based on one of the grounds listed in article 15 .
The Indian Constitution’s Article 15 protects its citizens from all forms of discrimination, and this blog discusses its contents. In a country like India, where there are so many religions, beliefs, dialects, cultures, etc., there is no doubt that bias may exist. Therefore, Article 15’s aim is to safeguard the rights and interests of the citizens .
Article-15 Restricts ‘Discrimination’
The word ‘discrimination’ means to make an adverse distinction or to distinguish unfavourable from others [i] or if you are adversely affected by being placed on an equal footing with another person in a different situation . If any of the law makes such discrimination on the below mentioned grounds , it can be declared void .
Clause(1) – Clause (1) of Article 15 provides : “The State is prohibited from discriminating against any citizen solely on the basis of their religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.” . [ii]
Relegion – This means that no one should be denied access to any public space or policy by the government or any other group on the basis of their religion.
Race – Discrimination shouldn’t be based on racial or ethnic origin. For instance, an Afghan citizen shouldn’t experience the same prejudice as an Indian citizen.
Caste – In order to stop atrocities committed by the upper caste against the lower castes, discrimination based on caste is also illegal.
Sex – A person’s gender or sexual orientation cannot be used as justification for discrimination in any situation. discriminating against women, transgender people, etc.
Birthplace – The place where someone was born shouldn’t be used as a basis for prejudice towards other citizens.
In State of Rajasthan v. Pratap Singh[iii] , The Police Act of 1861’s notification that declared certain regions as disturbed and required their residents to pay for additional police to be stationed there was found unlawful by the Supreme Court, however all Muslims and Harijans were exempted. Article 15(1) was violated because the exemption was granted only on the basis of ‘caste’ or ‘relegion’ .
In D.P Joshi v. State of M.B[iv]. , a law mandating non-Madhya Bharat citizens to pay a capitation fee to the state medical college Students’ applications for admission to colleges were approved because their residence served as their exemption . Place of birth and residency are two separate things.
Article 15(1)’s use of the word “only” made it clear that discrimination could not be justified based solely on a person’s caste, sex, or other characteristics. This means that it is legal to discriminate on grounds other than religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
Clause (2) – Clause (2) of Article 15 provides for the specific application of the general principle which 15(1) provides for . It should be emphasised that while Article 15’s clause (1) forbids discrimination by the state, clause (2) forbids discrimination by both the state and private individuals. Article 15(2) aims to end the misuse of the Hindu social system and usher in a unified country.
According to Article 15(2)(a), citizens should not be denied entrance to public venues due to their religion, race, caste, gender, place of birth, or other comparable grounds. This includes stores, restaurants, hotels, and other facilities that are open to the general public.
According to Article 15(2)(b), no person may prevent another person from using septic tanks, wells, roads, or any other public facility that is maintained with state funds or that is specifically intended for use by the general public on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth. This clause describes how discrimination ought to be avoided rather than used. Any of the aforementioned forms of discrimination are forbidden and illegal. Restricting or preventing access to a public space created by the state specifically for public use is against the law and unjust.
Special Provisions for Women and Children
Clause (3) – The Indian Constitution established Clause (3) of Article 15 to safeguard the interests and rights of those who belong to vulnerable groups, such as women and children.[v] The state is given the authority to grant exceptional privileges only for the purpose of defending the rights of women and children .
“Women’s traits and maternal function performance put them in a position that is disadvantaged in the struggle for existence. As a result, a law to this effect won’t contravene Article 15(1), and women workers under Article 42 are eligible for a special maternity advantage .
In India, many laws protecting women’s rights have been passed, including the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce Act), Dowry Prohibition Act, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, and The Provisions of The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005 etc .
Women and adultery:
In Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay [vi] It was held that women cannot be punished for the offence of Adultery under Sec. 497 as Art 14 and 15(3) read together validate I.e the wife would not be punishable as an abettor , the impugned clause in Sec 497 of the IPC .
In Joseph Shine v Union of India[vii] , Supreme Court overruled the other judgments and held Sec 497 of I.P.C penalizing the adultery violative of Article 14, 15(1) and 21 of the Constitution of India and not a beneficial legislation covered by Article 15(3) of the Constitution .
In Permjit Singh v. State of Punjab [viii] , The petitioner won a Panch election for a reserved seat just for women from Scheduled Castes. The petitioner contested respondent number 5’s election as sarpanch on the grounds that she was not eligible to compete because that position was reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes, not Scheduled Castes (women). Instead, respondent was chosen to serve as sarpanch for the Gram Panchayat, not the reserved position for Scheduled Castes (women). It was decided that if a village’s Sarpanch position was reserved for members of Scheduled Castes, both men and women who belonged to those groups were eligible to run for the position. The eligibility requirement was essentially belonging to a Scheduled Caste and serving as the constituency’s Panch.
Special provision for advancement of backward classes
Clause (4) – Article 15(4) is another exception to clause (1) and (2) which was inserted by Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951 . This provision is an enabling provision and does not impose any obligation on the state to take any special action under it .It just grants a discretion to act, creating specific provisions for the underprivileged groups when appropriate. [ix]
Nothing in Article 15 or Article 29(2), prohibits the state from establishing specific arrangements for socially and educationally disadvantaged classes of citizens or SCs / STs according to Article 15(4). Two Significant events that served as the primary impetus for including such a provision in Article 15 was when the government of Madras issued an order laying out how seats would be allotted in medical and engineering colleges based on a student’s community and caste in the case State Of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam (1951). Examination revealed that the decision contravened Clause (1) of Article 15, which specified that seats were assigned according to student castes rather than merit. After that, the seven-judge panel reversed the decision that allocated seats based on caste and not merit .
Second, the development of a colony exclusively for harijans was deemed to violate
Article 15 in Jagwant Kaur v. State of Maharashtra (1952). Thus, in order to assist the citizens who are socially and educationally underprivileged while abiding by all other laws, Clause(4) under Article 15 was adopted.
In State of UP v. Pradeep Tandon (1974), the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to give students from rural areas reserved seats. Under Article 15’s Clause (4), it cannot be defended. At this instance, students from rural areas, hilly areas, and students from Uttarakhand were given reservations in medical colleges by the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since residents of hill regions and Uttarakhand are socially and educationally behind due to a lack of awareness and inadequate educational facilities, the Supreme Court ruled that reservations for students from these areas are valid. According to the Court, poverty does not indicate social or educational backwardness in rural areas, nor being in a rural area constitute a backward status.
Classification into backward and more backward :
In M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore [x] , The State of Mysore set aside a total of 68% of seats in 1962 for various underprivileged groups .This was contested in this case and For the first time, the Supreme Court’s five judges bench discussed to keep the Maximum reservation of 50% and also declared classification of backward and more backward class as invalid .
In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India [xi] It was held that distinction between backward and more backward classes is necessary as otherwise those of the backward classes who are little more advanced than more backward classes might take away all the seats and There is a 27% reservation for “Other Backward Classes.” The Supreme Court of India set a cap on the total percentage of reservations at 50% since it was argued that going over that amount would deny others their right to equality. The Supreme Court also stipulated that in exceptional circumstances, the rules may go beyond the reservation cap.
Moreover, The Supreme Court ruled in A. Periakaruppan v. State of Tamil Nadu[xii] that it was against Article 15(4) to categorise socially and educationally disadvantaged strata on the basis of caste . However, the Court held that because it was necessary for their circumstances to improve as that was the primary justification for making such a class of people eligible for a reserve.
High caste girl marrying st :
In Dr. Neelima vs. Dean of P.G Studies , Agriculture University case :According to a ruling, a girl from a high caste who marries a male from a Scheduled Tribe is not eligible for the reservation benefits offered to Scheduled Tribes.
Clause (5 ) – The Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act of 2005 added clause (5). According to Art 15(5) , Nothing in it or Article 19(1)(g) prohibits the government from enacting special laws to enhance the lives of socially and educationally disadvantaged persons, as well as those who belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes . Moving a step further, Article 15(5) gives the country the authority to impose restrictions on admissions to educational institutions, whether they are privately owned or receive government support or not. Only minority-run institutions, are free from this provision. Basically , this amendment was added to nullify the following mentioned Supreme Court decisions :
In T.M.A Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka[xiii] The Supreme Court held that the State could neither make reservation of seats nor any quota or percentage of seats in admissions in privately run minority or non – minority unaided educational institutions . There, admissions could be made based on a common entrance exam administered by the State or these institutions, or on the basis of merit.
In Islamic Academy v. State of Kerela[xiv], The State could set quotas for admission to certain educational institutions, but it was not allowed to set fees. Admissions might also be made on the basis of merit and a common admission test, the court ruled.
In P.A Inamdar , however the Court overruled the Islamic Academy ruling to the effect that the “State could fix the quota for admissions to private professional educational institutions”.
The Supreme Court decided in Pramati educational and cultural trust v. Union of India[xv] that the exclusion of minority educational institutions from clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution because these institutions constitute a distinct class and are already entitled to other protections.[xvi]
The Court in Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India[xvii] ( 2008 ) held that Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act of 2005 was found not to contradict the “fundamental structure” of the Constitution . In this instance, the Union of India argued that discrimination, whether in employment or education, does not violate the Constitution’s fundamental principles or equality code. It is being argued in this case that not only is the 27% reservation policy arbitrary and in violation of the constitution, but also the methodology used to define and estimate the number of OBCs in the nation. Moving on from the OBC estimate, the inclusion of the creamy layer within the scope of quota under the Act was another contentious issue but The Court reportedly did not believe that any of the rights protected by Article 14 had been violated [xviii]
It was also held that reservation benefits cannot be claimed by Creamy layer candidates . SCs/STs who would be given reservation every year , the requirement of creamy layer would not apply to them .
In Indian Medical Association v. Union of India[xix] , the Supreme Court held : 100% reservation , by a notifcation issued by the Govt. Of N.C.T. Delhi , in the Army College of Medical Sciences to the wards of Army ,is ultra vires to the provisions of the Delhi Professional Colleges or Institution Act , 2007 and also unconstitutional being violative of Article 14 , 15(2) , 19(1)(g) , 38 and 162 .
The provisions in Clause (5) of Article 15 do not violate Articles 32 and 226 because they do not limit the ability of judicial review. They also do not violate the Constitution’s basic Structure .
Reservation to economically weaker sections
Clause (6) : With the exception of the minority educational institutions mentioned in clause (1) of Article 30, Article 15(6) is added to provide reservations to economically weaker sections for admission to educational institutions, plus private educational institutions, either aided or unaided by State.
The modification intends to give individuals who don’t fall into 15 (5) and 15 (4) reservation (effectively, SCs, STs and OBCs). This Clause was added by The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act in 2019.
For the purposes of this Article and Article 16, “economically weaker portions” are defined as those that the State may from time to time notify based on factors such as family income and other economic disadvantage indicators.
People who belong to a specific caste or religion are still subjected to prejudice and are viewed negatively by society, despite the fact that the Indian constitution prevents the nation’s citizens from engaging in any form of discrimination. Individuals’ opportunities, well-being, and feeling of agency are all impacted by discrimination. Individuals who are subjected to discrimination on a regular basis may internalise the stigma or prejudice that is held against them, which can lead to poor health, low self-esteem, fear, and stress as well as humiliation. Globalization is also one of the reason for increasing discrimination and it’s impact is obviously not good . Mutual trust and a sense of community may promote cooperation, but with rising inequality and globalisation, a sizable portion of the population feels alienated. The discrimination against women is the most glaring example of how social disparity results in discrimination towards distinct groups.High mortality rates, a lack of access to well-paying occupations, high poverty rates, and deaths that are also brought on by discrimination.
To prohibit discrimintion the starting should be done from the ground level. Panchayat members ought to launch initiatives to raise awareness of this problem. If discrimination against adults or children occurs in the village, the panchayat member should bring it up before the Gram Sabha, where the offender should get the appropriate punishment. In addition to this they should work to end prejudice based on caste , sex relegion , place of birth and race in their community, panchayat members should also provide minority group representatives equal opportunity to voice any concerns they may have. Moreover stern actions should be taken against any encouragement of discrimination or violence against the communities, particularly through the Internet, and against the propagation of concepts of caste superiority and inferiority or that attempt to legitimise violence, hatred , or prejudice;
steps can also be taken to educate media professionals on the nature . It should also be ensured that all the students from all the communities to be included in the public and private educational systems. So, necessary steps in collaboration with civic society to instil a culture of non-discrimination and respect for all communities among the populace can also serve good .
Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, gender, or place of birth in all circumstances. People have been prejudiced against in several ways throughout history, and the term discrimination covers a broad variety of topics. Equal opportunity for citizens to protect their rights are envisioned under this article. The main goal of Article 15 is to ensure that the economically, socially, and educationally underprivileged sections become advance .Even if discrimination hasn’t been entirely eradicated, it has diminished. .The preamble of the Indian Constitution makes reference to equality. The reservation has generated the most serious disagreements as a result of Article 15’s existence. The weaker groups in society have access to a variety of types of reserve, which upsets the general populace. Reservations are made to help the nation’s underprivileged people, not to split the population into general and reserved groups. Reservations are of course necessary but should be made based on reasonable classification. Untouchability and prejudice were widespread in the early decades prior to British colonialism, and continued to be so even after colonialism ended. However, the adoption of regulations meant to safeguard the underprivileged class has led to some reduction in inequality.
[i] Srinivas Aiyer v. Sarawathi Ammal , AIR 1952 Mad. 193
[ii] The Constitution of India
[iii] AIR 1960 SC 1208
[iv] AIR 1955 SC 334
[v] Indian Kanoon, Article 15 (3) in the Constitution of India, Indian Kanoon (24th Aug, 2021)
[vi] AIR 1954 SC 321
[vii] AIR 2018 SC 4898
[viii] AIR 2009 P&H 7
[ix] Dr. J.N. Pandey ,The Constitutional Law of India , p.no. 149 (Central Law Agency , Allahabad , 58th edition , 2021)
[x] AIR 1963 SC 649
[xi] AIR 1993 SC 477
[xii] AIR 1971 SC 2303
[xiv] AIR 2003 SC 3724
[xv] AIR 2014 SC 2114
[xvi] MP Jain , The Indian Constitutional Law ( Kamal Law House , Calcutta , Eighth Edition , 2018 )
[xvii] 2008 AIR SCW 2899
[xviii] Case Summary of Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India , which is available at :
https://www.ejusticeindia.com/case-summary-ashok-kumar-thakur-v-union-of-india/ (last visited on 29th October , 2022)
[xix] AIR 2011 SC 2365