The Indian Constitution contains provisions for Right to Equality in Articles 14 to 18. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution also provides for the right to equal status and opportunity to the citizens of India. Right to Equality forms part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution which can’t be amended. It is one of the six fundamental rights which is provided to the citizens of India by the Constitution. The Right ensures equality before the law and equal protection of the law irrespective of race, religion, caste, place of birth or gender of the citizens. Article 14 forms the foundation of Articles 16, 17, 18 of the Indian Constitution.
Right to equality of Opportunity in Public Employment: Article 16
Article 16 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to all citizens in matters related to employment in the public sector. Article 16(1) states that there shall be equal opportunity for the citizens in the matter of employment or appointment to any office under the State. The provision of equality is only applicable to the employment or offices which are held by the State. The State is still free to lay down the requisite qualifications for the recruitment of employees for the Government services. The Government can also pick and choose applicants for the purpose of employment as long as the applicants have been given an equal opportunity to apply for the Government service.
Article 16(2) lays down the grounds on which the citizens should not be discriminated against for the purpose of employment or appointment to any office under the State. The prohibited grounds of discrimination under Article 16(2) are religion, race, caste, sex, descent, birthplace, residence, or any of them. The words ‘any employment or office under the state’ mentioned in clause 2 of Article 16 implies that the said provision refers only to public employment and to the employment in the private sector.
Article 16(1) and (2) lay down provisions for equal opportunity of employment in the public sector. However, it is stated in clause 3 of Article 16 that nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law which prescribes to the citizens who are appointed to any office under the State in regard to any requirements as to residence within that State or Union territory prior to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
Article 16(4) of the Indian constitution provides for the reservation of services under the State in favor of the backward class of citizens. The State shall decide whether a particular class of citizens is backward or not. Therefore, the State shall lay down acceptable criteria in order to ascertain whether a particular class of citizens is a backward class or not.