Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Laws:
Article 14 guarantees to all person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. The first expression, equality before the law is a negative concept that means that no man is above the law of the land and every person, whatever be his social standing is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts. The exceptions are-
- The President or the Governor of a State shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office.
- No criminal proceeding whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.
- No civil proceeding in which relief is claimed against the President or the Governor of a State shall be instituted during his term of office in any court until the expiration of two months after a notice is served on him. These immunities shall not bar impeachment of the President or suits or other proceedings against the Government of India or state.
- Exception in favour of foreign sovereign and ambassadors.
On the other hand, the expression equal protection of laws is more a positive concept which means that among equals, the law should be equal and equally administered and like should be treated alike. Article 14, thus, does not require that the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons within the territory of India or that the same remedies should be made available to them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means that all persons similarly placed shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. In other words, Article 14 ensures equality among equals. Its aim is to protect persons similarly placed, against discriminatory treatment. Article 14, therefore, does not forbid classification (of people). However, in order to be valid, a classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational. Thus the Legislature may-
- Exempt certain classes of property from taxation such as libraries etc.
- Impose different specific taxes upon different trades and profession.
- Tax, income and property of individuals in a different manner.