Right to equality means the absence of legal discrimination against any one individual, group, class or race. In earlier times certain classes possessed special privileges or were judged by special law.
The modem tendency is to enforce the same law over all persons in the State and to give all persons equal rights and privileges in the protection of their civil liberties. Democracy can only exist and flourish in a society of equals.
The Constitution of India makes social and civil equality the bedrock of Indian polity. It guarantees equality of all persons before the law, prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth as between citizens, and abolishes untouchability on the one hand and titles on the other.
The concept of equality of all persons before the law has a significant bearing and it is one of the ingredients of what Dicey calls the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law means three things with Dicey. It means, in the first place, the absolute supremacy of law.
There should be nothing which may be characterised as an arbitrary power and every action of government must be authorised by law. Then, there should be the supremacy of law and no one may be punished except for definite breach of law which must be proved in a duly constituted court of law.
Thirdly, it means equality before the law, that is, every citizen is subject to the ordinary law of the land and has to stand trial in the same law courts whatever his status or position in society. The Rule of Law is no respecter of persons.
It is not ‘a rule of men’, but a measure of liberty enjoyed by the people. Law should neither be arbitrary nor should it guarantee privilege or take account of privilege. Rich and poor, high and low must be equal before the law. But the judiciary must be independent and impartial if the Rule of Law can mean anything real.