2021 GS2 Answer

Q. Analyze the distinguishing features of the notion of Equality in the Constitutions of the USA and India.

Question from UPSC Mains 2021 GS2 Paper

Model Answer: 

The notion of equality is a fundamental principle in the Constitutions of both the United States of America (USA) and India. Though both countries uphold the value of equality, their Constitutions have different approaches and provisions to ensure the equal treatment of their citizens. In this analysis, we will examine the distinguishing features of the notion of equality in the Constitutions of the USA and India.

Constitutional Text and Basis for Equality

1.1. USA
The US Constitution does not explicitly mention the term “equality” but contains provisions that protect individual rights and promote equality. The 14th Amendment is particularly relevant, as it guarantees equal protection of the law for all citizens.

1.2. India
The Indian Constitution emphasizes the importance of equality through several articles, particularly in Part III, which outlines fundamental rights. Articles 14 to 18 specifically address the principle of equality and provide various guarantees and protections.

Protection against Discrimination

2.1. USA
The US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause (14th Amendment) prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction equal protection under the law. This clause has been used to strike down discriminatory laws and practices related to race, gender, and other factors.

2.2. India
India’s Constitution offers more explicit protections against discrimination. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth, and Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity in public employment.

Affirmative Action

3.1. USA
In the US, affirmative action policies have been implemented to promote diversity and address historical inequalities. The US Supreme Court has upheld such policies but has also set limits to prevent discrimination against non-beneficiaries.

3.2. India
India has a comprehensive system of affirmative action, known as reservation. The Constitution provides for reservations in education, employment, and political representation for historically disadvantaged groups, such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.

Gender Equality

4.1. USA
The US Constitution does not explicitly address gender equality. However, the 19th Amendment guarantees women’s right to vote, and the Equal Protection Clause has been interpreted to prohibit gender-based discrimination. Additionally, the Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to guarantee legal gender equality, has been proposed but not yet ratified.

4.2. India
India’s Constitution contains explicit provisions for gender equality. Article 15 prohibits gender-based discrimination, and Article 39 requires the state to ensure equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

Economic and Social Equality

5.1. USA
The US Constitution focuses primarily on ensuring political and legal equality, with limited provisions for economic and social equality. The government, however, has enacted laws and policies aimed at reducing economic inequality and promoting social welfare.

5.2. India
The Indian Constitution has a more comprehensive approach to economic and social equality. The Directive Principles of State Policy, outlined in Part IV, encourage the government to work towards reducing income disparities, improving public health, and promoting social justice.

Conclusion:

While both the US and Indian Constitutions promote the notion of equality, they differ in the scope and approach of their provisions. The US Constitution focuses primarily on legal and political equality, whereas the Indian Constitution explicitly outlines a broader range of protections against discrimination, affirmative action measures, and social and economic equality goals. These differences reflect the unique historical, social, and political contexts of each country.

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