Article 14 Cited In Protest Over Citizenship Bill. What Is It: 5 Points

There were vociferous protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in parliament last week, with the Congress's Shashi Tharoor calling the bill "fundamentally unconstitutional"

Article 14 Cited In Protest Over Citizenship Bill. What Is It: 5 Points

Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in parliament today

New Delhi: Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, in parliament today to a chorus of opposition voices that repeatedly cited Article 14, reminding the centre the Constitution of India prohibits the State from denying any individual, irrespective of citizenship status, equality before the law. In response Mr Shah assured parliament the bill does not violate any Article and that it was not even "0.001% against India's minorities". The proposed CAB seeks to amend a six-decade-old law to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens. Several opposition parties and leaders, including MPs from the Northeast who are allied with the ruling BJP, have called the proposed law discriminatory and alleged it is contrary to the basic tenet of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

Here is your five-point cheat sheet to Article 14:

  1. Article 14 of the Constitution of India reads: "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India".

  2. Article 14 is part of a series of three Articles - 14, 15 and 16 - that address the Constitutional Right to Equality. Article 15 provides for protection against discrimination by the State on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 16 assures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

  3. The first of two significant phrases in Article 14 is "equality before the law", which is an English concept. This means that among equals the law must be equal and equally administered. The original text of the Constitution contained this phrase but it was later modified because it was considered a 'negative concept', meaning it did not allow for the State to give disadvantaged groups and members of society preferential treatment.

  4. To get around the 'negative concept' problem the phrase "no person should be denied equality before law" was added later. This is a 'positive concept' that means no individual can be excluded from equal protection of the law and, therefore, special laws could be framed to help disadvantaged groups and members of society.

  5. Article 14 is not absolute in nature. This means "reasonable classification", something Amit Shah referred to repeatedly, is allowed to cater to needs of different classes of society that may require differential treatment. Article 14 does, however, prohibit class legislation. This refers to discrimination by conferring privileges upon an arbitrarily selected group or class of persons from among a larger number or group.



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