Article 15 – Fundamental Rights – Polity – Module 4

The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them....

Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to—

(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or

(b) 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.

 (3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

(4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

(5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30.

(6) Nothing in this article or sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 or clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making,—

(a) any special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clauses (4) and (5); and

(b) any special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clauses (4) and (5) in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30, which in the case of reservation would be in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of ten per cent. of the total seats in each category.

Explanation.— For the purposes of this article and article 16, “economically weaker sections” shall be such as may be notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

  • The two crucial words in this provision are ‘discrimination’ and ‘only’. The word ‘discrimination’ means ‘to make an adverse distinction with regard to’ or ‘to distinguish unfavorably from others’. The use of the word ‘only’ connotes that discrimination on other grounds is not prohibited.
  • There are three exceptions to this general rule of non-discrimination:

(a) The state is permitted to make any special provision for women and children. For example, reservation of seats for women in local bodies or provision of free education for children.

(b) The state is permitted to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. For example, reservation of seats or fee concessions in public educational institutions.

(c) The state is empowered to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the scheduled castes or the scheduled tribes regarding their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state, except the minority educational institutions.

  • Denial of discrimination on the ground of sex also includes denial of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
  • As observed in case NAZ Foundation vs Union of India 2009 by Delhi High Court as observed in LGBT case thus buy IPC 377 as observed by Delhi High Court was in conflict with article 15.
  • Subsequently in case Suresh Kumar Koushal vs NAZ Foundation 2013 Supreme Court reversed the judgment of Delhi High Court And reevaluated IPC 377.
  • In case Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan 1997 referring article 15 judiciary used the experiences of CEDAW (Convection Only Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women) formulated Vishakha guidelines for protecting the dignity of women at workplace
  • In 2013 primarily inspired by Vishaka guidelines Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act) SHWWP Act was passed.
  • Supreme Court in case National legal service vs Union of India 2014 referring article 15 and article 21 explain that binary consideration of sex his myopic and accepted the legal existence of 3rd Generation.

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