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 essential human rights
to that all citizens are entitled. Article 15 is one of the important Fundamental Rights
under the 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 discuss its contents.
ARTICLE 15 RESTRICTS ‘DISCRIMINATION’
The word ‘discrimination’ means to make an adverse distinction or to distinguish
unfavorable from others or if you are adversely affected by being placed on an
equal footing with another person in a different situation. If any of the laws make
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
Religion – 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 citizens shouldn’t experience the same prejudice as Indian citizens.
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 D.P Joshi v. State of M.Biii. , 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
Clause (2) – Clause (2) of Article 15 provides for the specific application of the
general principle that 15(1) provides for. It should be emphasized that while Article
15’s clause (1) forbids discrimination by the state, clause (2) forbids discrimination by
both the state and private individuals.
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
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.iv 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 Joseph Shine v Union of India, 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 beneficial legislation covered by Article 15(3) of
the Constitution .
SPECIAL PROVISION FOR ADVANCEMENT OF BACKWARD
Clause (4) – Article 15(4) is another exception to clauses (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 discretion to act, creating specific provisions for
underprivileged groups when appropriate. vi
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 were 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.
CLASSIFICATION INTO BACKWARD AND MORE BACKWARD :
In M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore vii, 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 keeping the
Maximum reservation of 50% and also declared classification of backward and more
backward class as invalid.
In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India viii, 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
The 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.
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 Karnatakaix, The Supreme Court held that the
The state could neither make reservations 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 Kerelax, 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.An Inamdar, however, the Court overruled the Islamic Academy ruling to the
effect that the “State could fix the quota for admissions to private professional
The Court in Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of Indiaxi ( 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 xii
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.
To prohibit discrimination 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. 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 legitimize violence, hatred, or prejudice. So, necessary
steps in collaboration with civic society to instill 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 in several
ways throughout history, and the term discrimination covers a broad variety of topics.
Equal opportunities for citizens to protect their rights are envisioned in this article.
The main goal of Article 15 is to ensure that the economically, socially, and
educationally underprivileged sections become advanced. 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 reserves, 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.
i Srinivas Aiyer v. Saraswathi Ammal, AIR 1952 Mad. 193
ii The Constitution of India
iii AIR 1955 SC 334
iv Indian Kanoon, Article 15 (3) in the Constitution of India, Indian Kanoon (24th Aug, 2021)
v AIR 2018 SC 4898
vi Dr. J.N. Pandey,The Constitutional Law of India, p.no. 149 (Central Law Agency, Allahabad , 58th
edition , 2021)
vii AIR 1963 SC 649
viii AIR 1993 SC 477
ix T.M.A Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka , available at :
https://indiankanoon.org/doc/512761/ ( last visited on 24th October , 2022 )
x AIR 2003 SC 3724
xi 2008 AIR SCW 2899
xii 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)