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Do Laws Apply to All?


The most important law in the Indian Constitution is that all persons are equal before the law, in independent India.

A Constitution is a document outlining the basic laws or principals by which a country is governed.

The members of the Constituent Assembly, who drafted the Constitution, ensured that there would not be any arbitrary exercise of power in India. They instituted many provisions in the Constitution that would establish the rule of law. The Constitution states that all Indians are equal before the law.

Let us look at Articles 14, 15 & 16 of the Indian Constitution:

Right to Equality

14. Equality before law.— The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.— The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. — There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.


Let us look at the Equality before law (Article 14) at little more deeply.

  • The law cannot discriminate between persons on the basis of their religion, caste or gender.
  • All laws apply equally to all the citizens of the country, whether they are Hindus, Christians or Muslims, whether they belong to any caste and whether they are male or female.

  • All laws apply equally to all citizens of the country and no one can be above the law. Neither a government official, nor a wealthy person nor even the President of the Country is above the law.
  • Any crime or violation of law has a specific punishment as well as a process through which the guilt of the person has to be established.

Now let us look at the laws that were in force during ancient times.

  • In ancient India, there were countless and overlapping local laws.
  • Different communities were given the liberty to enforce the laws according to their need. In some cases, the punishment that two persons received for the same crime varied depending on their caste. The lower castes were punished more harshly.

The system of law started changing during the colonial period. The system became more streamlines and specific. It is generally believed that it was the British colonialists who introduced the rule of law in India. There is also another view that the system introduced by the British was unreasonable and that it was the Indian nationalists played an important role in the development of the legal system in British India.  

Now let us have a look at one law, passed by the British, that was unreasonable from the view point of the Indians.

The Sedition Act of 1870

According to this Act any person protesting or criticising the British government could be arrested without due trial.

The Consequence of the Sedition Act

  • Indian nationalists began protesting and criticising this arbitrary use of authority by the British.

  • They also began fighting for greater equality and wanted to change the idea of law from a set of rules that they were forced to obey, to law as including ideas of justice.

  • By the end of the nineteenth century, the Indians started asserting themselves in the colonial courts.

  • The Indian Legal profession began emerging as a force to reckon with and the Indians demanded respect in the courts.

  • Indians started using law to defend their legal rights.

  • Indian judges began to play a greater role in making decisions.

Thus the Indians played a major role in the evolution of the rule of law during the colonial period.

This system of law that emerged during the British rule served as the base while the Indian Constitution was written and laws for the country were written down.

Every year our representatives pass several new laws as well as revise existing ones.

  • The Hindu Succession Amendment Act revised in 2005, states that sons, daughters and their mothers can get an equal share of the family property.
  • New laws were enforced to control pollution and provide employment.

The Rowlatt Committee was a Sedition Committee appointed in 1918 by the British Indian Government with Mr. Justice Rowlatt, an English judge, as its president.

The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Black Act, was instituted on the Rowlatt Committee's recommendations. It had a significant impact on the political situation of India, placing her on a path of political movement headed by Gandhi that ultimately dominated the Indian Independence movement for the next 20 years. The Act gave the Viceroy's government powers to quell sedition by silencing the press, detaining the political activists without trial, and arresting without warrant any individuals suspected of sedition or treason. In protest, a nationwide cessation of work was called, marking the beginning of widespread, although not nationwide, popular discontent.

The agitation unleashed by the acts culminated on 13 April 1919, in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, Punjab.


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

The British military commander, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, blocked the main entrance to the Jallianwala Bagh, a walled in courtyard in Amritsar, and ordered his soldiers to fire into an unarmed and unsuspecting crowd of some 5,000 people who had assembled there in defiance of a ban. A total of 1,650 rounds were fired, killing 379 people and wounding 1,137 in the episode.

Reginald Dyer


Other Atrocities Committed by the British in the Name of Sedition.

The British Retaliated with Horrific Violence against the Native Population


Indian Rebels Hanged


Mutineers Hanged


The Blowing of Sepoy Prisoners of War from the Mouth of Cannon


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