The Indian Constitution grants equality to all Indian citizens as a fundamental right. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
However, every so often, we are confronted with incidents of discrimination on the basis of caste, as men and women from specific communities and castes are lynched or brutally raped.
Hate crimes against religious minorities dominate the social landscape in the country.
The 2014 Badaun case, an alleged gang-rape and murder of two teenaged girls, was rife with charges of bias and discrimination on the basis of caste. With ‘Article 15’, the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer loosely based on this case, the eponymous fundamental right and its provisions have come into focus.
So what does Article 15 of the Constitution of India say?
Article 15 falls under Part III of the Constitution, which deals with the fundamental rights of the citizens of India.
The first clause of Article 15 directs the State not to discriminate against a citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them.
It prevents citizens from denying others access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment, public resort, wells, tanks, etc. The term place of public resort is used to cover places which are frequented by the public, such as a public park, a public road, a bus etc.
Legally speaking, discrimination refers to creating an adverse distinction or distinguishing unfavourably from others. Any law which discriminates against anyone on the grounds listed above can be declared void.
For example, in the case of Nainsukhdas vs State of UP, a law which provided for elections on the basis of separate electorates for members of different religious communities was declared unconstitutional. In another case, a notification which declared certain areas disturbed and made inhabitants of those areas, apart from Harijans and Muslims, bear the cost of additional police who had been sent there, was also declared invalid.