Difference between Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Law

Article 14 of the Constitution of India says that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Both of these differ subjectively.

  • Equality before law means that no one is above the law of the land. Thus it has slightly negative connotation. It means that law does not discriminate on the basis of birth, position, gender or other personal attributes. Thus, privileged, underprivileged and unprivileged are equal before law.
  • Equal protection of law means that law provides equal opportunities to all those who are in similar circumstances or situations. This concept is slightly positive in connotation.

Both Equality before law and Equal protection of law aim to establish the “Equality of Status and Opportunity” as embodied in the Preamble of the Constitution. Further, because all persons are not, by nature, attainment or circumstances in the same positions; article 14 provides that state can treat different persons in differently if circumstances justify such treatment. This is called Doctrine of Reasonable classification and it says that protective discrimination is also a facet of equality.