Equality: Legislative Review Under Article 14
Sujit Choudhry, Pratap Mehta & Madhav Khosla eds, The Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law (OUP 2016) 699-719
21 Pages Posted: 12 May 2015 Last revised: 21 Aug 2017
Date Written: May 12, 2015
This chapter concerns the guarantee of the right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. It explores the two doctrines that have evolved to test the constitutionality of a measure when faced with an Article 14 challenge: the ‘classification test’ or the ‘old doctrine’ (which I have labelled ‘unreasonable comparison’) and the ‘arbitrariness test’ or the ‘new doctrine’ (labelled ‘non-comparative unreasonableness’). I show that (a) the classification test (or the unreasonable comparison test) continues to be applied for testing the constitutionality of classificatory rules (whether or not legislative in character); (b) it is a limited and highly formalistic test applied deferentially; (c) the arbitrariness test is really a test of unreasonableness of measures which do not entail comparison (hence labelled non-comparative unreasonableness); (d) its supposed connection with the right to equality is based on a conceptual misunderstanding of the requirements of the rule of law; and (e) courts are unlikely to apply it to legislative review (in the actor-sensitive sense). The way forward is to beef up the classification doctrine to realise its true potential, and abandon the arbitrariness doctrine with respect to actor-sensitive legislative review.
Keywords: Indian constitutional law, right to equality, classification doctrine, arbitrariness doctrine
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation