What Is Article 15 Of Indian Constitution?

Article 15 which occurs in fundamental right given under part 3 of the Indian Constitution and this article is  available to citizens only and not to any persons( citizens or non citizens) as available to article 14. Now Article 15 of the Constitution  directs the state not to discriminate against the citizens on  grounds only of religion, race, caste , sex,  place of birth or any of them.


Here the word 'only'  is used so that discrimination on these grounds above mentioned are not permitted if grounds include any caste plus any other ground it can be permitted.

Originally,  when the constitution was enacted then the article 15 had only three sub-clause but as of now there are total number of 6 clause in the article 15.

Clause 1 of article 15 -

This clause prohibits the state from making discrimination on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex , place of birth or any of them.

#  The word 'discriminations'  means when a man is treated in a less favourable manner than another man under the similar circumstances.
#  This clause is available only against the states.
#  The word 'only' means that discrimination can be done on the basis of other grounds.

Case law - D.P JOSHI  v. STATE OF M.B., AIR 1955

The fact of the case was that there was a state medical College which made a  rule that those students who do not belong to Madhya Bharat have to pay 'capitation fee'  and this rule was challenged on the ground that it violates the fundamental rights  under article 14 and article 15(1) .

The  court held that there is no violation of article 15 (1 )  because this clause includes 'place of birth'  not 'place of residence'  and the place of birth is not same as place of residence.  But the term place of residence is given under article 16 clause 2.

Clause 2 of article 15-

This clause prohibits  both States as well as citizens from making discrimination on the grounds only of religion ,race, caste, ,sex place of birth or any of them with regard to-

a) access to hotels,  shop,  malls,  public restaurant etc.

b) no person in India can be denied from the use of Wells, ghats, tanks , roads ,a place a public resort like( bus , hospitals) etc.

#  This clause is available only for those property which are maintained or managed from the states funds (whether  partially or wholly ) or  have been dedicated to the use of the general public.

#  This clause is available against States as well as citizens.


This case was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India as per article 15(2)  because of setting up of different electoral boards for different religions by the states election commission . So  the states shall not do any kind of discrimination.

Clause 3 of article 15-

It provides the special provisions for women and children.

# This clause says that there are some areas where the women and children should give special privileges. 

#  This clause allows the state to make the special provision regarding the protection of women and evolution of sexual harassment.

#  Nothing can stop the state from making special provisions for the welfare of the children and women but it does not mean that the discrimination is done as there is a positive discrimination.

Some of the best example of this clause are-
Like children should provide free and compulsory education under the age of 14 years OR state can reserve the seats for women in local bodies.

#  Article 15 (3) is one of the two exceptions of article 15(1) and 15(2) of the constitution.


This case is related to the section 497 of IPC which deals with the adultery and says that only men can be held liable for committing the adultery it provide the exemption  to the women from punishment even though they may be guilty as a abettor .

So court states that under  article 15 ( 3 ) the women were given special provisions so they were saved under article 15 (3 ) .
But in recent case JOSHEF SINHA v.  UNION OF INDIA , AIR 2018 

Section 497 was descriminalised since it was violation of article 14 , 15 and 21 of the constitution so now it is no longer treated as a crime but can be a ground for divorce under Hindu Marriage law.

Clause 4 of article 15-

It  provides the special provisions for the advancement of backward classes.

# This clause was added by the first Constitutional Amendment Act , 1951.

# The reason for adding this clause was due to the decision of the case in the STATE OF  MADRAS v.  CHAMPKAN DORAIRRAJAN , 1951.

# This clause 4 of article 15 allows the state to make the special laws or provisions relating to the advancement of the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or as scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.

# Under article 15 ( 1 ) the two things should we determine - 

1 . Socially and educationally backward classes
2.  The limits of reservation.

Note - The term backward class is not defined anywhere in the constitution of India so the Article 340 gives the power to President to appoint a commission to decide who lies under of socially and educationally backward class .


In this case State of Madras issued a government order (G.O)  and by that G.O  made a reservation to medical and engineering College for different communities (like brahmins Muslims) and this reservation was challenged on the ground of violation of article 15 and 16.

In  fact the object of the G. O. was not to discriminate rather was to implementing DPSP.  The clash between the fundamental right and DPSP arose and the question was which shall prevail . 

The supreme court held that this is a violation of Fundamental Rights and it violates article 15 on grounds of religion and caste and said fundamental rights should prevail above DPSP .
And this led to the addition of article 15 (4) by the constitutional amendment act 1951.

After the inserting the clause 4 in the article 15 , now the question arised that who are backward or what should be the criteria to determine the backward class of citizens?

Case law 2. MR BALAJI  v. STATE OF MYSORE , AIR 1969

The fact of this case was that the state of Mysore made a law giving the reservation in medical and engineering College under article 15(4) and the reservation was given to schedule caste and scheduled Tribes and most backward and the basis For giving the reservation was caste which was challenged as caste cannot be safe criteria to determine backward.

The supreme court of India in this case held -
1.  that in determination of backward class cannot be slowly based  upon the caste.

2. to  determine the backward class we must considered both the factor that is social and education.

3. The maximum limit of reservation is 50%.

4. the sub- classification of backward class  into backward class and more backward class is against the provision of article 15 (4).

Case law 2. INDRA SAWHNEY  v. UNION OF INDIA , AIR 1993 (also known as Mandal Commission)

a)  It was the nine judges bench.

b) This case overruled the case of Mr Balaji vs State of Mysore.

c) It introduced 27% of reservation for the other backward classes.

d) The sub  classification backward into backward and more backward is valid.

e) The supreme court provided that the reservation more than 50% can be exceed under extra ordinary situations.

f) Supreme court interpreted the term reservation in broad ways and held that reservation is not confined to appointment but include other forms of preferential treatment.

g) The supreme court struck down 10% reservation given on economic criteria because in article 15 clause for reservation is given only on socially and educationally backward classes and not economically.

Clause 5 of article 15-

It is related with the special provisions (reservation ) in the private institution whether aided or unaided by the state other than minority.

# This clause was added by 93rd amendment in 2006

# It  provide the reservation related to admission of education institution for private as well as government aided.

# The exception of this clause is Madrases/ minority educational institution given under article 30 ( 1) .

#  This clause was added to nullify the supreme court judgement in PA INAMDAR v. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA, AIR 2005


The fact of this case were-

In  this case the supreme court said that the state cannot make reservation for the private run educational institutions and admission should be done on the basis of common admission test which is to be conducted by the state for these institutions .

But now the private educational institution can get the reservation.

Clause 6 of article 15-

This special provision is related with educationally weaker section.

#  Clause 6 was added by 103rd constitutional amendment act , 2019.

#  Article 15(6)  provide the reservation to economically weaker section to private institutions whether aided or an unaided by the state.

#  The purpose of  adding  of this clause is to provide reservations to those who don't fall under article 15( 5)  and 15(4)  effectively scheduled castes, scheduled Tribes and OBCs.

#  This clause is applicable to citizens who belong to the economically weaker section from the upper caste and  further states that 10% reservation has to be given to economic weaker sections.

#  This 10% reservation is not dependent on those reservation  which are already in existence.

#  The most important thing is that nothing can stop the state  from making special provisions for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of the  citizens.

#  State can enact  the special provisions for the citizens (students ) which is related to admission in educational institutions whether aided or unaided by the government.


I would like to conclude here that the reason for providing of this article 15 was that before the independence of India,we have seen many types of discrimination on the basis of caste so this article provides the state to enact the special  laws for the welfare of the society and provide the special protection to  women and children and gives the  reservation to socially and educationally backward classes schedule caste and scheduled Tribes . 

So ,  states  should not discriminate against the citizens on the basis of religion race, caste, sex , place of birth or any of these five grounds and also for the citizens they should not discriminate with each other in private.

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