This is a cluster of inter-related questions seeking references to understand positive obligations of the state and horizontal application, if any, of the constitutional guarantee of equality.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution reads:

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

(emphasis supplied). My questions are:

  1. What is the distinction between 'equality before the law' and 'equal protection of the laws'? Are there any decisions of the Indian Supreme Court or High Courts which explain this difference?

  2. Are there any court opinions from other jurisdictions where this distinction is examined?

I vaguely remember watching a YouTube lecture by Adv. Mr. Rohinton F. Nariman (who later became a judge of the Supreme Court of India) where he mentioned (if I remember correctly) in passing that the clause 'equal protection of the laws' is borrowed from the Irish constitution and mandates a positive obligation on the State unlike 'equality before the laws' which is a purely negative obligation to not discriminate.

Are there any judgments of Indian Courts expounding upon the positive obligations of the state, if any, under the clause 'equal protection of the laws' of article 14? To what extent, if any, do these positive obligations mandate the State to protect persons from discrimination at the hands of private entities? In other words: is there a horizontal application of article 14 (stemming from the equal protection clause) despite the fact that it explicitly says 'The State shall not deny...'?

I understand that the issues of positive obligations and horizontality could be very complex and may require a much more detailed treatment than a stackexchange answer, so I am merely looking for references (books/essays/journal articles/court opinions) which may help me to begin understanding these aspects. Thanks!


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