Summary of Article 15 and Article 16 of Indian Constitution

Article 15 and Article 16 of Indian Constitution

This Article is submitted by:

  • Naga Snigdha Nemani

Article 15 prohibits the discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, caste, race and palce of birth. Indian Constitution also prohibits any kind of disability, restriciton or condition with regard to accessing shops, hotels, public parks and restaurants. Also no individual can be prohibited from using wells, tanks, bathing gaths and any other public resorts.

Article 16 discusses about the equal opportunites to be provided to individuals in the matters of public employment. All the citizens shall be provided with equal amount of opportunity in terms of employment opportunity. 

Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination:

Article 15(1): Article 15(1) prohibits the state from discriminating any citizen on the basis of these following 5 categories:

  • Religion – No person can be discriminated on the basis of religion in order to access any public place etc…
  • Race – Any person’s origin shouldn’t be a basis of discrimination.
  • Caste – Mainly discrimination on the basis of caste is prohibited. This prevents the crimes committed against lower caste.
  • Sex – Gender of any particular individual can’t be a basis in order to discriminate.
  • Place of Birth – Any person place of birth can’t be taken into consideration and discriminate them.
  • Any of the above.

In the case “DP Joshi v/s Sate of Madhya Bharat”1, there was a medical college which was established in Indore and it was under the control of Madhya Pradesh Government. The govt, had made a rule which stated that all the Domicile students residing in Madhya Bharat wouldn’t be required to pay any “capitation fees”, but all the non-domicile students had to pay a nominal fees of Rs. 1300-1500 as capitation fees. This rule was challenged by filing a writ in Supreme Court under Article 32 claiming that it had violated the Fundamental rights guaranteed under Art 14 and Art 15(1). The court had passed a judgement stating that, this rule doesn’t violate article 15(1) since “Place of birth” and Place of Residence” are two distinct terms. The term “Place of Residence” is mentioned under Article 16(2) which would be discussed further.

Article 15(2): Article 15(2) lays down that no individual shall be subjected to any disability, restriction, or any other form of discrimination with regard to:

In access of shops, parks, restaurants, hotels or any other public place. Each and every individual have the right to use wells, tanks, bathing Ghats, roads, visit public resorts and any other place which are maintained by government authority for general public.

Article 15(2) applies to every individual which includes private actions while Article 15(1) alludes to all the obligations done by the State only.  

Article 15(2) was invoked in the case “Nainsukhdas v/s State of Uttar Pradesh”2. In this case the, the state had set up different electoral boards, for different religions. The Supreme Court had declared such differentiation on electoral boards based on religion as unconstitutional as per Art 15(2). The court had laid down the judgement that, the state shall not discriminate any individual.

Article 15(3), 15(4), 15(5) and 15(6) discusses about the provisions made by the government to empower certain classes in the society.

Article 15(3): Nothing in this section can stop the state from making any special laws for women and children. Under this article, the state has been empowered to make special provisions for Women and Children.  Under this article, the court had upheld the validity of legislation or executive orders discriminating in favour of women.

This Article states that, even though the state wouldn’t discriminate anyone on the basis mentioned in Art 15(1), yet they have the whole authority to make special provisions in order to protect the interests of Women and Children. The main question which had been raised under this Article is whether section 497 of IPC contradicts the provisions stated in Art 14 and Art 15(3)?

In Case “Yusuf Abdul Aziz v/s State of Bombay”3 the judgement was passed by the court which stated under Sec 497 of IPC only men can commit the crime of adultery and be punished for the same. The court had also stated that a women shall not be punished as an abettor, as this would offend Art 14 and 15(3). The court had stated that since art 15(3) is a special provisions made for women by the state therefore the woman was saved under this article. However, recently in “Joseph Shine v/s Union of India”4. Adultery was decriminalized since it was violating Art 14, 15 and 21 of Indian Constitution. Hence it is no longer treated as a crime, rather it can only act as a reason for divorce.

Article 15(4): This article was added by the first amendment of Constitution. This article was added by the constituent assembly itself who have drafted our Indian Constitution. This article permits the state to make special provisions for the advancement of :

  •  Socially and Educationally backward classes of citizens
  • Schedule class
  • Schedule tribes

In case, “State of Madras v/s C.Dorairajan”5 is a landmark judgement which lead to the insertion of Article 15(4) in indian constitution. This is the first major judgement which dealt with reservations in India. The Madras high court have passed the judgement which reserved seats in Government jobs and college institutions based upon caste system.

In another case “MR Balaji v/s State of Mysore”6, the Mysore state have reserved seats for all the communities except for Brahmin community. Mysore state have treated all the communities as “socially and educationally” backward class except for Brahmin community. 68% of the seats were reserved in engineering and medical colleges.The state also divided the reserved seats for More backward and Backward classes along with SC and ST. The petitioners had filed a case under article 32 in supreme court which stated that, 68% of reservation had no reasonable cause and it is a clear violation of Article 15(4).

The SC passed a judgement stating that reservation under article 15(4) was solely based on “Caste”. Also it stated that article 15(4) neither have reservation based on “Backward” and “More backward classes”, nor this article don’t provide any classification based on the same above terms mentioned. Verdict given by the court stated that, classifying communities into backward and more backward classes and then reserving the seats isn’t valid and it acts as volition for Art 15(4).

To conclude article 15(4) empowers the state to make provisions which provides reservation for the individuals who fall under the category of both “Socially and Educationally Backward class”, “Scheduled casts” and “Scheduled Tribes”.

Article 15(5): Under this article, the state is empowered to make provisions which helps in uplift-met of socially and educationally backward classes or Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes. Under this article the state is empowered to make provisions which includes educational institutes whether aided or not aided by the State, irrespective of the minority educational institutes which are referred in art 30(1). 

The main concept of this article was invoked in the case “Pramati Educational & Cultural Trust v/s Union of India”7. The main issue in this case was whether insertion of Art 15(5) by the constitution under 93rd amendment has altered the basic framework of Constitution or not? In this case the contention made by the petitioner states that article 15(5) failed to make the distinction between aided and unaided educational institutions. Also the petitioner held that, private institutions can’t be forced by the state to provide admissions based on the system of reservations. Whereas the respondent mentioned that Art 15(5) just acts as an “enabling section” which empowers the state to make laws. The court later passed the judgement which stated no rights were being harmed or violated under Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Indian constitution. The court also stated that inserting art 15(5) under 93rd amendment acted only as an enabling section and hence it is clearly held to be valid.

Article 15(5) was introduced under 93rd amendment act which merely acts as an “Enabling section”. This was held in the case “Ashoka Kumar Thakur v/s Union of India”8. Also in the case “T.M.A. Pai Foundation”9, the court held that article 15(5) was introduced which enables a right to establish and administer any of the private educational institutions under Art 19(1)(g) of Indian Constitution. Hence it was clearly laid down by the court that art 15(5) doesn’t violate art 19(1)(g).

While all the above discussed mutulally deal with Art 15, the court have always upheld both Art 15(4) and Art 15(5) are valid and both of them are not contradicting to each other.

Article 340: This article empowers the President to appoint a commission inorder to investigate the conditions related to backward classes. Under the same article, “Mandal Commission and Sanatham Commission” was appointed.

Mandal Case: In this the concept of “Creamy layer” was adopted. The concept of Creamy Layer was laid down in the case “Indira Sawheny v/s Union of India”10 . The Supreme Court had given the verdict that 27% of Government jobs would be reserved for OBCs’. Also it was stated in this case, that the reservation would be provided only for the “initial stages of appointments” and not for further promotion process. In total the reservation shall not exceed 50%. ( since already 22.5% is reserved for SCs’ and STs’.) After this Indira Sawheny case, many of the state governments and other governing bodies have upvooted for Mandal Report and deemed it to be valid. This case was invoked under Art 16(4)

In the year 2006, in the case “M.Nagraj v/s Union of India”11, the Supreme court have ordered the Parliament to enable the reservations even in “promotions” I.e revservation for SCs’ and STs’ in further promotion process as well. However the court did lay down some grounded principles which made it difficult for both Centre and State government, to grant such reservations. This case was decided as per the 77th amendment [insertion of art 16(4a)] and 81st amendment [insertion of art 16(4b)].

In “Subhash Chandra v/s Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board, the court had laid down the differences between art 15(4) and art 16(4) of Indian constitution. The words “Backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes” are incorporated in art 15(4), but in art 16(4) only “backward class of citizens” find a place. The court’s verdict proved that the scope of art 16(4) is wider than that of art 15(4).

Article 15(6): This article which empowers the state to make special provisions for the advancement of “economically weaker sections” of the society, which would even include the reservations in educational institutes. This article was added as 103rd amendment in 2019. This article further states that 10% of the reservation has to be provided for EWS. This 10% of reservations is independent of ceilings upon the already existing reservations.

More than 20 petitions have been received by the Supreme Courts challenging this amendment. It was argued that, this article violates article 14 of indian constitution. The main argument which was put forth was that the amendment which was introduced exceeds 50% ceiling limit which was laid down in Indra Sawhney case. The court after looking into all the contentions made, stated that the state have an authority to make laws which promoted “social equality” and protect the welfare of weaker sections of society under Art 46 of Indian constitution. Also the court have taken into the note that “economic criteria” is one of the relavent factor which identifies social and educational backwardness. It was also put forth by the court that 50% of ceiling limit which was drafted from Indra Sawhney case wouldnt apply for art 15(6).

“The views of the authors are personal


  1. 1955 AIR 334, 1955 SCR (1)1215
  2. 1953 AIR 384, 1953 SCR 1184
  3.  1954 AIR 321, 1954 SCR 930
  4.  2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676
  5. 1951 AIR 226, 1951 SCR 525
  6. 1963 AIR 649, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 439
  7. 2014 8 SCC 1
  8. 1996 AIR 75, 1995 SCC (5) 403
  9. 2002 8 SCC 1
  10. AIR 1993 SC 477, 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454
  11. 2006 8 SCC 212

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