The Citizenship Amendment Act and Article 14: An Argument Over Equality

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Published On: 3rd May, 2024

Authored By: Adv. RIYA SHIL


The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed in December 2019 in India, representing a significant legislative victory. This bill sought to speed the citizenship process for persecuted minorities from neighbours, but it provoked a widespread discussion over its compliance with Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14, which provides equality before the law and equal protection under the law to all persons in India, became a source of disagreement, with some claiming that the CAA’s exclusion of Muslims violates this basic value.

The CAA: A Brief Overview

Meaning of citizenship

There are two classes of people living in the state: citizens and aliens. A person who has all civil and political rights is considered a citizen of that state. Aliens do not possess all these rights. Certain benefits that come with being a citizen are granted under the Constitution. Aliens do not enjoy these advantages.[1] 

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship Act, 1955 is amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (henceforth referred to as the “CAA”) to provide a pathway to Indian citizenship for a particular type of undocumented migrants. According to the CAA, individuals who are undocumented migrants who are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan and who (a) identify as members of the Christian, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, or Hindu society are eligible for citizenship. Only immigrants who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014, are included. The clause does not apply to some areas in the Northeast. The act excludes Muslims, raising concerns about religious discrimination.[2]

Article 14 – The Fundamentals of Equality

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution stands as a cornerstone of justice and equality within the country’s legal framework. Enshrined in Part III of the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights to Indian citizens, Article 14 asserts the principle of equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. It reads:

The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.[3]

This fundamental provision embodies the essence of democracy and ensures that all individuals, regardless of their background, status, or characteristics, are treated fairly and without discrimination under the law. Let’s delve deeper into the significance and implications of Article 14:

  1. Equality Before the Law: Article 14 mandates that the state cannot deny equality before the law to any person within the territory of India. This means that every individual, regardless of their social, economic, or political standing, is subject to the same laws and enjoys equal protection of their rights and freedoms. No one is above the law, and everyone is entitled to access justice on an equal footing.
  2. Equal Protection of Laws: Article 14 also guarantees equal protection of the laws to all individuals within India. This principle ensures that the state treats similarly situated individuals in a similar manner, without unjust discrimination. It prohibits arbitrary or discriminatory actions by the state and requires that laws be applied uniformly to all citizens, without favouritism or prejudice.
  3. Rule of Law: Article 14 is integral to upholding the rule of law in India. By ensuring equality before the law and equal protection of the laws, it promotes fairness, justice, and accountability in governance. It serves as a check against arbitrary exercises of state power and guards against violations of fundamental rights.
  4. Right to Equality: Article 14 forms the bedrock of the right to equality guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. It complements other provisions in Part III, such as Articles 15 and 16, which prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, and ensure equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
  5. Judicial Interpretation: Over the years, Article 14 has been interpreted and applied by the judiciary in various contexts. Courts have upheld its principles in cases involving discrimination, arbitrary state action, and unequal treatment under the law. Judicial activism has played a vital role in expanding the scope of equality and ensuring its realization in diverse spheres of life.

Debate Over Equality

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is being debated as to whether it breaches Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 ensures the right to be treated equally under the law and prohibits discrimination on a variety of reasons, including religion. The CAA, which provides a pathway to Indian citizenship for certain religious minorities from neighbouring countries, has been criticised for its religious discrimination, raising issues about its consistency with Article 14.

Critics argue that by excluding Muslims from the CAA and giving preferential treatment to other religious groups, the Act discriminates on religious grounds, violating Article 14’s principle of equality. They argue that the Act establishes a religious identity-based classification that violates the principle of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution.

However, supporters of the CAA claim that it does not violate Article 14, because it seeks to provide sanctuary to persecuted minorities facing religious persecution in neighbouring nations. They argue that the Act is a humanitarian measure designed to address the specific vulnerability of these communities and does not discriminate against anyone based on their citizenship status in India.[4]

Legal Challenges and Judicial Review

Petitioners have argued that the CAA violates fundamental constitutional values, such as Article 14, in a number of judicial challenges brought before Indian courts. The Indian Supreme Court has acknowledged these objections and has heard cases contesting the Act’s constitutionality. The legal dispute highlights how important it is to balance the CAA with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, even as the ultimate decision is still pending.

Ethical Problems

The CAA presents significant ethical questions regarding India’s commitment to secularism and pluralism that go beyond legal considerations. Opponents contend that the inclusive character of the Indian nation-state is violated by giving some religious communities more weight than others. According to them, everyone should be treated equally in a truly secular democracy, regardless of their religious membership.


In India, the Citizenship Amendment Act caused a heated discussion over the relationship between humanitarian concerns and constitutional values. Although supporters of the Act contend that it tackles the difficult situation of those who are marginalised, opponents express justifiable worries regarding the Act’s possible effects on legal equality. In order to protect the fundamental values of the Indian Constitution and successfully handle humanitarian emergencies, legislators and public must have a constructive conversation as the legal and ethical debate rages on. The outcome of this discussion will determine the course that India’s democratic values and its dedication to equality and secularism will take in the future.


[1] DR. J.N. PANDEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA 42 (54th ed., Central Law Agency 2017).

[2] Supreme Court Observer, Citizenship Amendment Act, SUPREME COURT (Mar. 19, 2024), Https://Www.Scobserver.In/Cases/Constitutionality-Of-The-Citizenship-Amendment-Act-2019-Caa/

[3] INDIA CONST. art.14.

[4] Indira Jaising, CAA Rules go against equality, federalism and India’s Constitution, THE INDIAN EXPRESS (Mar.13,2024, 10:13 AM),

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