• Discrimination is prohibited in India under Article 15 of the Constitution only on the basis of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth. It prohibits classifications based on protected grounds, so implementing the general equality principle of Article 14 in particular circumstances.
  • The Indian Constitution’s Article 15 protects its citizens from all forms of discrimination. There is no doubt that prejudice may happen in a nation with as many distinct religions, ideologies, dialects, customs, etc. as India has. Therefore, Article 15’s aim is to safeguard the rights and interests of the populace.
What is the content of article 15?

Prohibition of discrimination based on a person’s birthplace, race, caste, religion, or sexual orientation

(1) No citizen will be subjected to discrimination by the State solely on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, or place of birth.

(2) No citizen will be subject to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition with regard to any matter based solely upon religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

(a) access to stores, eateries open to the public, hotels, and theaters; or

(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, highways, and public resorts that are either totally or partially maintained with state funds or intended for public use.

(3) The State may make any specific provisions for women and children without this Article interfering.

(4) The State may make specific provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally disadvantaged sections of citizens, as well as for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, without being prohibited by this article or Article 29’s clause (2).

Article 15’s first clause:
  • No citizen of India shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth, as stated in Article 15(1). No one should be subjected to discrimination, notwithstanding the fact that castes are split into reserved caste/tribes, backwards classes, and generally. Discrimination is an unjust practice that has numerous facets as a general phrase. Dalits and other members of lower castes have frequently suffered unfair treatment. According to the Hindu study, there has been a 6% increase in bias towards Dalits since 2009.
  • Even though there are laws to protect them, such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, there are still places in the nation where SCs and STs are treated cruelly. The lower caste population occasionally has a lot of difficulties, including women being violated and people being killed as a result of demonstrations and caste-related disputes. A 19-year-old Dalit girl was raped in a gang rape case that occurred in the Uttar Pradesh district of Hathras in September 2020 (Hathras case).
  • Furthermore, Dalits are frequently the victims of crimes against humanity for no discernible reason. For instance, in April 2010 there was a situation where the homes of 18 Dalits were burned down. A higher-class man was accosted by a dog that was barking, which led to the incident. Despite numerous laws protecting people’s rights over the years, discrimination still happens. One of the main causes of this may be the absence of suitable penalties and people’s unwillingness to adjust.
Article 15’s second clause
  • It is against the law for an Indian citizen to discriminate against another Indian citizen on the grounds listed in Clause (1), according to Article 15(2). According to Article 15(2)(a), people should not be denied entrance to public venues because of their religion, color, caste, gender, place of birth, or any other similar factor. This includes stores, restaurants, hotels, and other facilities that are open to the general public.
  • According to Article 15(2)(b), no person may prevent another person from using septic tanks, wells, highways, or any other public facility that is maintained with state funds or that is particularly 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.
Article 15’s third clause:
  • According to Article 15(3), the state may not forbid itself from passing laws that make particular allowances for women and children.
  • The adultery accusation was brought against the appellant in Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay (1954) under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The key question in this case was whether or not Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is in conflict with Articles 14 and 15. In this instance, it was argued that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 forbade women from ever being penalized for aiding and abetting adultery, as it stated that only men may commit adultery.
  • This debate created a contradiction on whether Article 15, which forbids discrimination based on gender, was being broken. It was clarified, however, that nothing in Article 15 restricts the state’s capacity to create particular provisions for women and children, according to Clause (3) of the provision.
  • Further, it was contended that Article 15(3) should not protect women from the danger of or from participating in crimes. In this instance, the appellant was not even an Indian citizen. Because only Indian citizens are eligible for the fundamental rights, the appellant was unable to rely on Articles 14 and 15 in this case. As a result, the appeal was denied.
  • Additionally, the petitioner in Paramjit Singh v. State of Punjab (2009) was elected as a Panch for a seat that was only open to women from Scheduled Castes. The petitioner contested respondent number 5’s election as Sarpanch on the grounds that she was ineligible to run for the position, which was reserved for members of Scheduled Castes and not Scheduled Castes (women), as respondent was elected as Panch for Gram Panchayat only rather than a seat that was designated for Scheduled Castes (women).
  • It was decided that if a village’s Sarpanch position was reserved for members of Scheduled Castes, both men and women who belonged to those groups were eligible to run for the position. The eligibility requirement was essentially belonging to a Scheduled Caste and serving as the constituency’s Panch.
Article 15’s fourth clause:
  • Nothing in Article 15 or Article 29(2), or the STs/SCs, prohibits the state from establishing specific arrangements for socially and educationally disadvantaged classes of citizens, according to Article 15(4). Two significant events served as the primary impetus for including such a provision in Article 15.
  • First, 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. The ruling that assigned seats based on caste rather than merit was then overturned by the seven-judge bench.
  • Second, the development of a colony exclusively for harijans was deemed to be a violation of Article 15(1) in Jagwant Kaur v. State of Maharashtra (1952). Thus, in order to assist the citizens who are socially and educationally underprivileged while abiding by all other laws, Clause(4) under Article 15 was adopted.
  • Additionally, Article 29(2) [which is also referenced under Article 15(4)] states that no citizen of India is subjected to discrimination while requesting financial aid from the state or asking for admission to a state-run educational institution on the basis of their religion, caste, race, or language. So, rather than being an exception, Article 15(4) is a particular provision for socioeconomically and educationally underprivileged groups in society.
  • In State of UP v. Pradeep Tandon (1974), the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to give students from rural areas reserved seats. Under Article 15’s Clause (4), it cannot be defended. At this instance, students from rural areas, hilly areas, and students from Uttarakhand were given reservations at medical colleges by the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since residents of hill regions and Uttarakhand are socially and educationally behind due to a lack of awareness and inadequate educational facilities, the Supreme Court ruled that reservations for students from these areas are valid. The Court ruled that poverty does not correspond to backwardness in rural areas and that the rural area does not indicate a backward social or educational status.
Article 15’s Clause 5:
  • Nothing in Article 15 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, according to Article 15(5).
  • With the exception of the minority listed in Article 30(1), special rules may occasionally apply to the admission of members of the backward classes, SCs, and STs to educational institutions, whether they are public or private, with or without state assistance. Every citizen of India has the freedom to pursue any profession, trade, business, or occupation of their choice, according to Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 30 contains a clause that expresses every minority’s freedom to form and run schools of their choosing in India, regardless of whether that minority is religious or linguistic. According to the Supreme Court, Article 15, Clause 5 does not infringe with the Constitution’s Article 14 provisions. According to Article 14, Indian nationals are entitled to equal protection under the law and inside the nation’s borders.
Landmark cases regarding Article 15

State of Madras v. Dorairajan, Champakam

The Supreme Court of India heard this case as the first involving Article 15 in India. In this instance, the State of Madras had issued a decree designating seats in engineering and medical schools for various communities in accordance with their demographics. According to the Supreme Court, such a policy violated Article 15(1) since it targeted particular communities based on their caste. The court further ruled that the State could not offer reservations based just on caste or religion.

Union of India v. Indra Sawhney

The reservation policy for the socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs) in public employment and education was the subject of this case, also known as the Mandal Commission case. The Supreme Court maintained the constitutionality of Article 15(4) and ruled that only classes of persons who were socially and educationally backward could receive reservations, not any specific caste or community. The court also established a limit on racial and ethnic minorities in public employment and education at 50%.

Union of India v. Ashok Kumar Thakur

In this case, the constitutionality of OBC reservations of 27% in higher education institutions was under question. The Supreme Court ruled that the State could not rely exclusively on caste as a basis for establishing backwardness and that the 27% quota was not based on any appropriate identification of socially and educationally backward classes.


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