The doctrine of classification which is evoked by the court is not paraphrase of Article 14

By the end of 1973, however, Bhagwati J., speaking for himself, Chandrachud, and Krishna Iyer, JJ. in a concurring opinion in E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1974 S.C. 555, propounded a new approach to the concept of equality under Article 14, as follows :

“Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be “cribbed, cabined and confined” within traditional and doctrinaire limits. From a positivistic point of view, equality is antithetic to arbitrariness. In fact, one belongs to the rule of law in a republic while the other to the whim and caprice of an absolute monarchy.

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Where an act is arbitrary it is implicit in it according to political logic and constitutional law and is, therefore, volatile of Article 14.”

A few months after the above judgment was pronounced, Justice Bhagwati again in a concurring opinion in M. Chhagan Lai v. Greater Bombay Municipality, AIR 1974 S.C. 2009, speaking on his behalf and Krishna Iyer, J., emphasized:

“Article 14 enunciates a vital principle which lies at the core of our republicanism and shines like a beacon light pointing towards the goal of classless egalitarian socio-economic order which we promised to build for ourselves when we made a tryst with destiny on that fateful day when we adopted our Constitution. If we have to choose between fanatical devotion to this great principle of equality and feeble allegiance to it, we would unhesitatingly prefer to err on the side of the former as against the latter.”

In the famous case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 S.C. 597, Justice Bhagwati has held that the provisions of Part III of the Constitution should be given widest possible interpretation. He has observed that the correct way of interpreting the provisions of Part III is to expand the reach and ambit of the fundamental rights, rather than to attenuate their meaning and ambit.

Quoting himself from Royappa case, Justice Bhagwati very clearly read the principle of reasonableness in Article 14. He said: “Article 14 strikes at arbitrariness in State action and ensures fairness and equality of treatment. The principle of reasonableness, which logically as well as philosophically, is an essential element of equality or non-arbitrariness, pervades Article 14 like a brooding omnipresence.”

Till that time Justice Bhagwati was stating the new approach to the concept of equality contained in Article 14 in his concurring opinions. But in Ramema Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority, AIR 1979 S.C. 1628 and Kasturi Lai v. State of J. & K„ AIR 1980 S.C. 1992, however, emphatically spoke for it for the unanimous court of three judge bench in each case.

Finally, in AJay Hasia v. Khalid Mujile, AIR 1981 S.C. 487, he stamped the new approach with a unanimous opinion of a Constitution bench of the Court in the following words:

“It must…. ….now be taken to be well-settled that what

Article 14 strikes at, is arbitrariness because an action that is arbitrary, must necessarily involve negation of equality. The doctrine of classification which is evolved by the court, is not paraphrase of Article 14 nor is it the objective and end of that Article.

It is merely a judicial formula for determining whether the legislative or executive action in question, is arbitrary and therefore constituting denial of equality. If classification is not reasonable and does not satisfy the two conditions referred to above (i) intelligible differential, and (ii) rational relation between the differential and the object sought, the impugned legislation or executive action would plainly be arbitrary and the guarantee of equality under Article 14 would be breached. Wherever, therefore, there is arbitrariness in State action whether it is of the legislature or the executive or of an authority under Article 12, Article 14 immediately springs into action and strikes down such State action”.

In Union of India v. Tulsi Ram Patel (1985) 3 S.C.C. 398, the Supreme Court has held that a violation of principles of natural justice by a State action is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Mr. H.M. Seervai has expressed the opinion in this context that it is worthwhile to consider whether a law which gives some concession to tax-evaders after the evasion or, for that matter, to criminals after the crime has been committed, creates a right under Article 14 in those who have made no evasion or committed no crime to complain of discrimination.

These words are clear enough to distinguish from the old that reasonableness In State is the demand of Article 14 and the classification doctrine is one method of meeting that demand. What else is needed to meet that demand, is yet to be crystallised.