Author: Carishma Bhargava

O.P. Jindal Global University (Jindal global Law School)

ISSN: 2581-8465


The Doctrine of Reasonable Classification is a significant concept of the Indian Constitution. The equal protection of laws guaranteed by Article 14 does not imply that all laws must be general in character. It does not mean that the same laws should apply to all persons. It does not accomplish the same position. The varying needs of different classes of people often require distinct treatment. Beginning with the very nature of society there should be different laws in different places and the legitimate controls the policy and passes laws in the best interest of the safety and security of the state. In fact, equal treatment in unequal circumstances would amount to inequality. So a reasonable classification is only not legalized but is necessary if society is to advance. Thus what Article 14 forbids is class-legislation but it does not forbid reasonable classification. The classification however must not be “arbitrary, artificial or evasive” but must be based on some real and substantial bearing a just and reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation. Article 14 applies where equals are treated differently without any reasonable basis[1]. But where equals and unequal are treated differently, Article 14 does not apply[2]. Class legislation is that which makes improper discrimination by conferring particular privileges upon a class of persons arbitrarily selected from a large number of persons all of whom stand in the same relation to the privilege granted that between whom and the persons not so favored no reasonable distinction or substantial difference can be found justifying the inclusion of one and the exclusion of the other from such privilege[3].


Equality Liberty and Fraternity were the gospel words of the French Revolution. These are the three virtues that we still prize, especially within the realm of human rights. Equality of opportunity and treatment is also considered one among the goals that the Indian Constitution strives to cause as a part of Indian social, administrative, and legal culture. Article 14 of the India Constitution guarantees every person equality before the law and therefore the equal protection of the laws laid down by the Constitution[4]. The primary case that the Supreme Court decided with regard to this provision was the case of Charanjit Lal Choudhury v. Union of India. The issue which had to be decided during this case was whether a producing company might be singled out for adverse treatment because it had been being managed badly giving rise to several adverse possibilities[5]. The case was decided by applying the Doctrine of Reasonable Classification.


Now the Doctrine of Reasonable Classification is premised on the principle that law is often general in its application, but it is rarely universal. There is a lot of diversity in every respect in every sphere of life that classification of individuals, things, or events becomes a sheer necessity[6]. Freedom of contract is taken into account the hallmark of a civilized and free society, but only adult persons who are of sound mind are often given this right. we have an adult franchise law whereunder adult citizens are voters but prisoners do not have the power to cast their votes[7]. Examples are often multiple. However, though the lawmaker has the facility to classify, his act of classification must fulfill two conditions: first, the basis of classification must be intelligible and will not are specifically be prohibited under the Constitution. Second, the idea of classification should be relevant to the purpose of law[8]. In judicial terminology, it is said that there should be some intelligible differentia between those that are a part of the group and people that are overlooked, and therefore the differentia should have a rational connection with the issue of the law.


The reasonable classification has to be backed by intelligible differentia. This indicates that individuals in a group make a well – defined, explicit group and should be unique from those overlooked of the other group. Additionally, this classification should have a rational nexus to explain the basis that the legislation of the nation tries to find[9]. For example, we can take the law on paid maternity leave. This law is only available for working women who are pregnant, but this law does not apply to others because they are either not women or are women who do not have children or have children who can be left on their own for some time without any danger. The law on paid maternity leave is mainly there to give certain benefits only to those women who are about to become mothers and need these benefits for the health of their children and themselves. This is why the classification of men and women is only done on the basis of intelligible differentia[10]. Another example of reasonable classification is are the nation’s tax laws.  The charities and public libraries in the nation are exempted from paying tax to the government whereas other vocations are not exempted from paying the government tax[11].


A recent example of the doctrine of reasonable classification would be the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, or CAA as it is commonly known. Many believe that this law is it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which proclaims that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India[12]. According to the former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, Mr. P.D.T. Achary CAA it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution[13]. He says that the government made the CAA law in such a manner that it denies equality before the law or equal protection of laws to everyone, not just the nation’s citizens, which why he believes that the CAA law should be void under Article 13 of the Indian Constitution. To counter his claim the nation’s judiciary advocated the doctrine of reasonable classification to lessen the restrictions of the equality clause[14]. In accordance with the doctrine of reasonable classification, the nation’s judiciary claimed that if the CAA allows a reasonable classification of a group for special treatment, it will not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

In order to prove that the CAA does not fall under the category of the doctrine of reasonable classification Mr. P.D.T. Achary insists if the CAA can show an intelligible differentia in the classification of receivers under the Act and a rational nexus between the differentia and the object of the CAA, it will be a valid Act[15].

Due to this reason, Mr. P.D.T. Achary stated that it was clear from the way the government has amended the laws relating to the Foreigners Act, 1946, and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 that the CAA allowed certain communities to face religious prosecution. And since religious prosecution is against the constitution and so any classification under it no matter how reasonable prevent the CAA from falling under the category of reasonable classification. Thus Mr. P.D.T. Achary was adamant that since the CAA  has failed to fulfill the test of reasonable classification hence proving that the act was unconstitutional as it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution[16].  Mr. P.D.T. Achary also stated that in the case of Nagpur Improvement Trust V. Vithal Rao & Ors (AIR 1973 SC 689)[17] the  Supreme Court had mandated that “In this connection, it must be borne in mind that the object itself cannot be discriminatory, for otherwise, for instance, if the object is to discriminate against one section of the minority, the discrimination cannot be justified on the ground that there is a reasonable classification.” [18]


Many people believe that the doctrine of reasonable classification is an exception to the Right to Equality. this is often because on one hand Article 14 of the Indian constitution outlaws class legislation but on the opposite hand, it does not prohibit the reasonable classification of objects, persons, and transactions for the aim in order to accomplish specific aim by the parliament. According to the Constitution, such reasonable classification should not be artificial, arbitrary, or evasive and it must be based on significant differentiation between which is legitimate and real. It has to bear impartial and just advice for the required aim which is meant to be accomplished by the legislation[19]. Reasonable classification as defined by the Indian Supreme Court has two conditions according to the case of Dr. Saurabh Chaudhari v Union Of India[20]. These two conditions are, first, the classification must be established in on intelligible differentia, a distinctive group of persons or goods from the neglected ones of the group. The second condition is that intelligible differential must be based on a reasonable relationship with the required aim that needs to be achieved by the law. The mechanism of the act and the concept of intelligible differentia as the basis of classification are two separate issues[21]. It is imperative that there has been the existence of a nexus between the issue of the law and hence the foundation of reasonable classification. When a reasonable classification is not present for grouping individuals together, in that case, the classification made by the legislature must be considered as discriminatory[22].

The age at which a person would be considered capable between themselves is often set by the nation’s legislature, however, the knowledge and experience cannot be claimed. A contract made dependent on the color of hair cannot be made, because such a classification would be considered arbitrary[23]. Article 14 allows Classification but Prohibits Class Regulation[24].


• It does not mean the laws have to be general in nature nor that it should be applied to everyone, which suggests, an equal law applies to each person.

• It does not assess the achievement or circumstances within the same position. Different classes have a variety of needs that need a distinct treatment.

• For safety and security, there are various laws for varying places, and bonafide control policies authorizing laws to lie at the simplest interest of the state.

• Identical treatment in unequal circumstances would amount to inequality[25].

Therefore for society to make progress a reasonable classification is not only allowed but also necessary. Article 14 forbids class legislation but the not reasonable classification of individuals. The article reasonable classification only comes in to play when equals are treated differently. The doctrine however does not come into play where unequal’s and equals are given different treatments[26].

Granting certain privileges upon a group of persons, class legislation makes inappropriate discrimination by selecting a massive number of individuals arbitrarily. No reasonable or substantial difference is often found in justifying the exclusion of the one and therefore the inclusion of the opposite from such privilege[27].

However, Prof. P.K. Tripathi in his lectures about “Right to Equality” made an attempt towards a more all-inclusive study of the right to equality. After a thorough analysis of numerous decisions of the Supreme Court about implementing the doctrine of reasonable classification, he concluded that these tests were inappropriate in certain fields[28]. He recognized that the idea of classification has three aspects which he chose to call ” ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘Whom’ elements, respectively.” He also noted that the doctrine of classification notice only the thing and criterion of classification and therefore their mutual relation but ignore the “what” element and the relationship of this element with the opposite two, leading to the “what” element rambling with the opposite “why” or “whom” elements, especially when the “object” or “why” element isn’t expressly and clearly indicated within the statute itself. He further came to the conclusion that the doctrine of classification is not right in the least for facing certain circumstances[29].

These situations are, where the statute indicates the policy or purpose to be fulfilled and also the special treatment to tend to choose persons or things but leaves it to the person in command to form an actual selection of the persons or things in fulfillment of the legislative policy; to “one person” statutes; where legislature gives a broad indication of the type of cases to be subjected to differential treatment and to statutes which leave the person in command to pick and choose individuals towards the fulfillment of the doctrine of reasonable classification[30].


Nevertheless, even after numerous debates and discussions it had been decided within the case of Indra Sawhney[31] the right to equality is established as one of the most essential features of the Constitution of Indian. Article 14 is applicable to every single individual in the country and is not this right is not limited to only to our nation’s citizens. This idea supports the concept of equality for equals and intends to bring down harsh discrimination or coercion of inequality. In Ramesh Prasad v. State of Bihar, AIR 1978 SC 327 [32]it is to be observed that intention of both the ideologies of, ‘ Equality before law’ and ‘ Equal protection of the law’ is that of the equal  to justice to every person in the country. The underlying principle of this is that the concept of equality is not the equivalence of treatment to all or any citizens altogether[33]. The doctrine of reasonable classification only means all individuals in similar situations shall be treated alike both within the rights give and accountabilities imposed on them by the laws. This is why it is said that equal law should only be pertinent to every person with the same circumstance, and there should not be any form of discrimination between one individual or another with the same circumstance[34]. Which is why the doctrine of reasonable classification is taken into account an exception to the right to Equality.


[1] Reasonable Classification Under Article 14

[2] Article14 Permits Classification But Prohibits Class Legislation (Reasonable Classification Under Article 14)

[3] Article 14 – Historical Interpretation and trace

[4] India, legal. 2020. “Right To Equality- A Fundamental Right”. Legalservicesindia.Com.–A-Fundamental-Right.html.


[6] “Constitutional Law: Reasonable Classification.” Michigan Law Review 28, no. 6 (1930): 759-61. Accessed May 13, 2020. doi:10.2307/1279205.

[7] Narain, Jagat. “Equal Protection Guarantee and the Right of Property Under the Indian Constitution.” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 15, no. 1 (1966): 199–230. doi:10.1093/iclqaj/15.1.199.

[8] Motiwal, Om Prakash. “RIGHT OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITY OF CIVIL SERVANTS.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute 11, no. 3 (1969): 328-43. Accessed May 13, 2020.

[9] Srivastava, Ashish. 2020. “Article 35A: Its Existence And Controversies”. Lawjournals.Stmjournals.In.

[10] The Maternity Benefit Act 1961

[11] Income-tax Act, 1961

[12] CAA & Article 14 Of Indian Constitution.

[13] CAA Based On ‘Reasonable Classification’ 2020

[14] CAA & Article 14 Of Indian Constitution.

[15] Citizenship law fails three tests of classification

[16] Testing CAA On The Principles Of Constitutional Law

[17] Nagpur Improvement Trust V. Vithal Rao & Ors (AIR 1973 SC 689)

[18] Nagpur Improvement Trust V. Vithal Rao & Ors (AIR 1973 SC 689)

[19] Reasonable Classification Under Article 14

[20] Saurabh Chaudhari & Ors. v/s. Union of India [AIR 2004 SC 361] 

[21] Reasonable Classification Under Article 14

[22]Article14 Permits Classification But Prohibits Class Legislation (Reasonable Classification Under Article 14)

[23] Human Rights in India,” Howard Law Journal

[24] Article14 Permits Classification But Prohibits Class Legislation (Reasonable Classification Under Article 14)

[25] Reasonable Classification Under Article 14

[26] “Reasonable Classification”. 2020. Indiankanoon.Org.

[27]India, legal. 2020. “Right To Equality- A Fundamental Right”. Legalservicesindia.Com.–A-Fundamental-Right.html.

[28] Article 14 – Historical Interpretation and trace

[29]Right to Equality Reasonable Classification Rule Versus Rule Against Arbitrariness Under the Indian Constitution

[30] Article 14 – Historical Interpretation and trace

[31] Indra Sawhney Etc. Etc vs Union Of India And Others  AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992

[32] Ramesh Prasad v. State of Bihar, AIR 1978 SC 327

[33] Ramesh Prasad v. State of Bihar, AIR 1978 SC 327

[34] Singh, Parmanand. “‘EQUAL OPPORTUNITY’ AND ‘COMPENSATORY DISCRIMINATOIN’: CONSTITUTIONAL POLICY AND JUDICIAL CONTROL.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute 18, no. 2 (1976): 300-19. Accessed May 13, 2020.

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