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Essay on Prohibition of Discrimination on certain grounds as per Indian Constitution

Not content with a mere general declaration of the right to equality, and fully conscious of the types of discrimination prevalent in the country, the framers went a step further in Article 15, which is more illustrative in character than introducing anything substantially new. Yet, there is one striking feature in it which brings within its scope, although in a limited way, the actions of private individuals. According to the Article, "the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them. Further, on the basis of any of these grounds a citizen cannot be denied access to shops, public restaurants or the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public". Interpreting the scope of the Article, the Supreme Court held that "it is plain that the fundamental right conferred by Article 15(1) is conferred on a citizen as an individual and is a guarantee against his being subjected to discrimination in the matter of rights, privileges and immunities pertaining to him as a citizen generally." In another decision the Court rejected the plea that residence in the State was equivalent to place of birth and held that these are two distinct conceptions with different connotations both in law and in fact, and when Article 15(1) prohibits discrimination based on the place of birth, it cannot be read as prohibiting discrimination based on residence. Residence as a qualification for certain purposes such as employment may not be classed with discrimination based on caste and place of birth. The significance of the Article is that it is a guarantee against every form of discrimination by the State on the basis of religion, race, caste, or sex. It also strikes at the root of provincialism by prohibiting discrimination based upon one's place of birth. It also goes well with the ideal of a single citizenship which the Constitution establishes for the entire country. By including within its scope certain discriminatory actions of private individuals, the Article anticipates Article 17 which abolishes untouchability and facilitates the removal of discriminatory practices indulged in by the higher castes against the lower castes and helps in a substantial measure the progress of social equality. Article 15 has, however, two notable exceptions in its application. The first of these permits the State to make special provision for the benefit of women and children. The second allows the State to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Schedule Castes and the Schedule Tribes. The special treatment meted out to women and children is in the largest and the long-range interest of the community itself. It also recognises the social customs and background of the country as a whole. The second exception was not in the original Constitution but was later on added to it as a result of the First Amendment of the Constitution in 1951.

The Amendment amplifies Article 15(3) so as to ensure that any special provision that the State may make for the educational, economic and social advancement of any backward class of citizens are beyond challenge before the judiciary on the ground of being discriminatory. The new clause (5) is inserted in Article 15 by the Constitution Ninety Third Amendment Act, 2005 (w.e.f. 20-22006), which enables the Parliament as well as State Legislatures to make appropriate laws to promote the educational advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, i.e. Thus Article 15(4) permits the discrimination in reverse by reserving seats in educational institutions and by reserving posts or appointments in public service. The extent of such reservation assumes great importance for the citizen, for the general public and for the State. To conclude, Right to Equality under Articles 14 to 18 ensure every citizen equality before law and equal protection of law within the territory of India. Article 15 implies absence of special privileges by reason of birth, race, caste, sex, place of birth, creed or the like in favour of any individual. To ensure genuine equality, untouchability has been abolished and its practice in any form has been made an offence punishable in accordance with law. However, clauses (3), (4) and (5) of Article 15 implies that the right to equality is not absolute and State is free to make special provisions for women and children and take special steps for the advancement of the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens