Equality before Law

Article 14 (Equality before Law) Ram Krishna Dalmia V. Justice Tendolkar

This article is written by Aaditya Shyam Pundir pursuing in 2nd year of B.A. Llb from Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar. This article deals with article 14(equality before law) and the case law Ram Krishna Dalmia vs Justice tendolkar


The Constitution of India contains an article 14 which states about the “right to equality’. In this research paper Right to equality will be explained and examined. Though its meaning is quite obvious still there are provisions and meaning that are still not known or should be highlighted. The exceptions of the article are also mentioned. The cases leading this article and their judgements are also stated for better understanding. In this research paper those points and exceptions are highlighted, which are admissible by our Indian Constitution. Article 14 is the fundamental right under the Indian Constitution along with the other fundamental rights that enables the person to have equality before the law.


Ram Krishna Dalmia was an Indian businessman who was born into a poor family in Rajasthan. The Dalmia Bharat Group (DBG) is an Indian conglomerate whose roots can be traced back to the businesses founded by Ramkrishna and Jaidayal Dalmia. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Dalmia brothers formed a corporate conglomerate in eastern India. On 11 December 1956, a notification was published in the gazette of India by the Central Government. Large and renowned companies and firms which were under the control of people like Sarvarshi Ramkrishna Dalima, Jaidayal Dalmia, Shanti Prasad Jain, Sriyans Prasad Jain, Shital Prasad Jain and others who were either relatives, employees or basically were connected to these people, were included in this gazette and large amounts of money were subscribed by the investing public in the shares of these companies. It was alleged that these people were misusing the money for their personal benefits which were raised by public funding or public shares, and this was the reason why people who had invested in the company were facing losses. Through this proclamation, the central government established a Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Shri Justice S.R. Tendolkar, Judge of the High Court of Bombay. The panel was requested to investigate and report on 11 different clauses. The names of the companies that had defaulted were disclosed, and an investigation would be conducted. Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952 gave the central government the authority to publish this notification.

Facts of the case

Six appeals were filed against a Bombay High Court Division bench’s shared judgment and order in three miscellaneous cases filed under Article 226 of the Constitution. The petitioners sought a suitable direction or decision under section 226 quashing and setting aside the notification issued by the Union of India on December 11, 1956, in exercise of powers bestowed on it by Section 3 of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1952. The four individuals named filed three applications with the Bombay High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, disputing the legitimacy of the Act and the notification and requesting writs to have them quashed. Except for the last section of cl. 10, the High Court dismissed the claims and ruled that the notification was legitimate and valid.


  1. Defaulting persons filed case alleging mainly that the notification has gone beyond the act and the Act itself is ultra vires the constitution.
  2. Whether the case was in violation of article 14
  3. If Ram Krishna Dalmia and people related to the companies were isolated
  4. If Sarvarshi Ramkrishna Dalima, Jaidayal Dalmia, Shanti Prasad Jain, Sriyans Prasad Jain, Shital Prasad Jain and others who were either relatives, employees or basically were connected to these people were misusing the money for their personal benefits
  5. The notification is bad as the action of government in issuing it was mala fide and amounted to an abuse of power and also as it violates Article 23 of the constitution.

Petitioner’s arguments

  1. The notification passed by the central government has gone beyond the act, and the act itself is ultra vires to the constitution in two ways. Firstly, that it was beyond the competence of Parliament to enact a law conferring such a wide sweep of powers and, secondly, that the inquiry is neither for any legislative nor for any administrative purpose, but was a clear usurpation of the functions of the judiciary.
  2. On the basis of a legitimate classification, the appropriate government has failed to use its discretion properly. The claim against the notification is that the government did not properly implement the policy or follow the principles set forth in the Act, and as a result, it has overstepped its power.
  3. The appropriate government has discriminated and isolated the petitioner and their companies by singling them out.
  4. The notification was taken in mala fide intention (in bad faith) and amounted to abuse of power and also violates article 23 of the constitution.

Respondent’s argument

  1. The notification does not go beyond the Act as the powers are being conferred to the appropriate government by section 3 of the Act.
  2. The Act does not violate the constitution because it was enacted within the scope of Parliament’s powers under Article 246 of the constitution. No inquiry has itself been undertaken neither by Parliament nor the Government, for it to be called the usurpation of judicial functions.

It was further submitted that the section also ascertains that the Parliament has the authority to provide for the appointment of Commissions so as to carry out the Inquiry in consideration of a matter of public importance.

It is impossible to forecast all the societal eventualities and therefore the duty of taking the necessary action hall be vested with the appropriate Government Article 14

Article 14 of the constitution talks about Right to Equality to the citizens of India. The central and the state cannot deprive any person from Equality before law and Equal protection of the laws within the territories of India. In Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice Tendolkar, the petitioner contended that their right to equality, that is, article 14, has been violated. The petitioner also stated that through the notification it is clear that the companies and the petitioners have been segregated and have been treated as separate classes or groups. The petitioners questioned the validity of the notification.

In the Indira Sawhney[1]case Article 14 has been taken under the basic structure doctrine, it is also a basic fundamental right and in no circumstance apart from national emergency can these rights be taken away from the citizen of this country otherwise the whole fundamental basis of democracy would get grossly violated. The true meaning and scope of Article 14 was established in the case of Budhan Choudhary v. state of Bihar[2], citing various other cases such as Chiranjit Lal Choudhary v. Union of India[3], state of Bombay v. F.N. Balsara[4], and many others, and it was established that “while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation.” Then there’s the matter of what constitutes a legitimate classification, because it can’t be “arbitrary, contrived, or evasive.” To accomplish this, a permissible classification test must be passed, which requires two conditions to be met: first, the classification must be based on an intelligible differentia that distinguishes those who are grouped together from those who are not, and second, the differentia must have a rational relationship to the object sought to be accomplished by the statute in question. The term “intelligible differentia” refers to a difference that can be understood. What is required is a link between the classification basis and the Act’s intended purpose.


The person who asserts that a particular law is violating the constitution has the burden of proof. The principle to mind when deciding whether the statute is legal or in violation of Article 14 is that nothing in Article 14 prohibits any reasonable classification. It does, however, ban discrimination in both substantive and procedural law.Matters of common knowledge, matters of common respect and history of the times may be taken in consideration by the court so as to sustain the presumption of constitutionality.Although the presumption of constitutionality is necessary, it cannot be expanded to the point where it is assumed that there must be some secret and anonymous motives for subjecting some individuals or organizations to antagonistic or discriminatory legislation.

In this case, the Supreme Court describes the jurisprudence of equality before the law. The very famous “classification test” had been given in this case. Simply put, it permits the State to make differential classification of subjects (which would otherwise be prohibited by Article 14) provided that the classification is founded on intelligible differentia (i.e. objects within the class are clearly distinguishable from those that are outside) and has a rational nexus with the objective sought to be achieved by the classification


In Conclusion, it could be said that in this case the Supreme Court through its judgement has laid an observation that the principle to be remembered while determining if the statute is valid or is in violation of Article 14 is that Article 14 nowhere forbids any reasonable classification. However, it prohibits discrimination in both substantive as well as laws of procedure.

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