Salient Features of the Indian Constitution
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This article is written by Jeffy Johnson, currently pursuing B.A. LLB (Hons) from School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University). This is an exhaustive article brief summary on E. P. Royappa case.


This is a very important landmark case here the question of law was regarding Article 14 of the Constitution of India. This article was interpreted and given a broadened meaning by the judgment given by Chief Justice Ray, Justice Palekar, Justice Chandrachud, Justice Bhagwati and Justice Krishna Iyer. The new dimension and its surety against the arbitrariness of Article 14 were laid down in the renowned case of E.P. Royappa V State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1974 SCC 555. Royappa case that the Supreme Court laid bare a new dimension to Article 14 which it had been a guarantee against arbitrariness. He has acknowledged that: “From the very beginning the Supreme Court held that while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it doesn’t forbid reasonable classification.” If any statute is found to not suit the important requirements of Article 14, it’ll be struck down as void and no act of the legislature might be termed “arbitrary”. “Any order passed independently of a rule or without adequate determining principle would be arbitrary. Here the valid determining principle is valid classification. Article 14 isn’t a guarantee against arbitrariness classification would be arbitrary, if it doesn’t follow and is contrary to the norms laid down by the Supreme Court about classification.” 

Background facts

The facts of the Royappa case is that the petitioner was a member of the Indian Administrative Service in Tamil Nadu. In 1969, in November when the position of the Chief Secretary fell vacant and the petitioner was suitable for that post. He was selected and a draft order on the appointment that showcased the ascent of the Chief Minister. Although the Government of the State gave permission and authority for the formation of a temporary post of Deputy Chairman in the State Planning Commission in the grade of Chief Secretary for 1 year and the petitioner was appointed to the same post. Therefore it was entitled that the same rank and payment was permissible to the position of the Chief Secretary. He that is the petitioner entered his office on 7th April 1971.

To the contrary to this, the petitioner made the representation that the continuance of the post of the Deputy Chairman that is the rank of the Chief Secretary. This period of more than 1 year would be invalid according to Rule 4(2) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954. On 27th June 1972, the State Government founded the temporary post of the Special Duty of Sales Tax Department that is the grade of that of the Chief Secretary for which position that the petitioner was appointed. But he didn’t enter the office but went on leave. After the petitioner, this case was transferred from the post of the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and appointed Officer on Special Duty.

Although the position of the Chief Secretary was vacant a junior cadre officer to that of the petitioner was appointed to that position. The petitioner proceeded with the writ of mandamus under Article 32. In other words, challenging the constitutionality of his transfer from the post of the Chief Secretary. From the post of deputy Chairman was transferred to officer on special duty. It was violative of Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. As an inferior rank officer was appointed to the position of Chief Secretary and the rights of the petitioner was at stake. This highlighted the main issue of malafide exercise of power.

The main legislative provisions, in this case, are as follows

  1. The Central Sales Tax Act, 1956
  2. Article 32 in The Constitution of India 1949
  3. Article 14 in The Constitution of India 1949
  4. Article 15 in The Constitution of India 1949
  5. Rule 9(1) Indian Administrative Service (Pay) Rules 1954
  6. Rule 4(2) Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954

Abuse of administrative discretion

Discretion in lay man’s language means choosing from amongst the varied available alternatives without regard to any predetermined criterion, regardless of how fanciful that choice could also be. An individual writing his will has such discretion to eliminate his property in any manner, regardless of how arbitrary or fanciful it’s going to be. ‘Discretion’ during this sense means choosing from amongst the varied available alternatives but concerning the principles of reason and justice and not consistent with personal whims. Such exercise isn’t to be arbitrary, vague and fanciful, but legal and regular.

The problem of administrative discretion is complex. it’s true that in any intensive sort of government, the government cannot function without the exercise of some discretion by the officials. it’s necessary not just for the individualization of the executive power but also because it’s humanly impossible to get down a rule for each conceivable eventually within the complex art of recent government. But it’s equally true that absolute discretion may be a ruthless master. Therefore, there has been a continuing conflict between the claims of the administration to absolute discretion and therefore the claims of subjects to an inexpensive exercise of it. Discretionary power by itself isn’t pure evil but gives much room for misuse. Therefore, the remedy lies in tightening the procedure and not in abolishing the facility itself.

Main issues

  1. Whether it was contrary to the proviso of the Indian Administrative Services (Cadre) Rules 1954 and Indian Administrative Services Pay Rules, 1954?
  2. Whether it was violative of Article 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution?
  3. Whether there was a mala fide exercise of power and abuse of discretion?


The bench had rejected the petition unanimously. Although, the judges did not find the requirement of talking about Article 14 and 16 in the current case. But Justice Bhagabati gave another judgement although Justices Krishna Iyer and Chandrachud they did emphasise the importance of the fundamental rights that are Articles 14 and 16. This same observation was followers in the coming cases. It laid down equal protection in a new sphere in India. Equality is a dynamic concept; it is “cribbed, cabined and confined”. According to the positivist, viewpoint equality is antithetic to arbitrariness. As equality and arbitrariness are opposite to each other. Arbitrariness is the whim of the monarch whereas equality is the rule of law and no bias. Arbitrariness is an implicit idea and contrary to political logic and constitutional law as it is unequal. Therefore, it can be argued it is violative of Article 14 and 16.

It is contended by the Supreme Court that whether such a promotion was employing substantive appointment or in the official capacity. In the current case, the petitioner the appointment of the petitioner was made in an officiating manner. As he was holding the office for 1 year it was under the rules that “if one person will be appointed in an officiating capacity they have very little chance for promotion so here the petition felt that the government pays with his career”.

This case founded the essence of the right to equality in arbitrariness. The term arbitrary is that which is not backed by any reason and no reasonable person would go by it. Thus, during the verdict, there was no scope taken on the heralding on the radical departure from the traditional concept of equality. The present case involved class legislation and reasonable classification. This is prohibited under Article 14. Class legislation means “which makes improper discrimination by conferring particular privilege upon a class of persons arbitrarily selected from a large number of persons”.

Arbitrariness versus Reasonableness

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

The court in its before decisions stated that Article 14 is a coherent perspective. This article highly deals with equality before the law for all the citizens. It prevents the hinders of equal protection of the law to its people. Article 14 is more of a moral principle and it’s a symbol of equality and it’s a very essential component to run democracy in a country like India. It also revolves around the rule of rationality and reasonableness. An exception to this rule is equality which is permissible and the state needs rational grounds for taking care of its people. Thus it can be stated that the guarantee and the constitutionality of the state’s action are dependent on the evaluation of the description of the state’s activity. Article 14 is an important portion of rationality and equality.

In this case, it talks at length about the growth and the evolving concept of arbitrariness test. It is that portion of the constitutionalisation of the law of which is a part of the administration. “The conceptual division between administrative and constitutional law is quite porous and that along many dimensions, administrative law can be considered more constitutional in character than constitutions”. The use of reasonableness standard forms an executive law and it is the new doctrine as law using the idea of rationality. Both reasonability and rationality are the same and integral part of equality as a concept. It is questionable on the theory of proper application of arbitrariness as a doctrine. It can be stated that a reasonable ground to make a difference between rationality and reasonableness as an ideal is not a very rational option to make. Whether all this does meet the legal requirement of reasonableness. As irrationality does not apply without any adequate means.



The Supreme Court held that both the posts were formed to discharge functions needed in high calibre. Its specialisation of experience was not to be evaluated. It was considered to be any less responsible than the topmost cadre posts that the petitioner. The wide experience of the petitioner within the field of economic taxes made the government post him as Officer on Special Duty. The posts of Deputy Chairman, committee and officer on Special Duty are equal in status and responsibility. There was also no ground for attributing bad faith or improper motive by the government against the petitioner. The affidavit evidence indicated that the petitioner administered normal duties and exercised care and caution at the time of the election and gave the advice in the course of duty. The government altogether accepted the recommendation of the petitioner. There also didn’t appear any disagreement between the government. Thus before the petitioner and therefore there are no records to suggest that the petitioner advised away and the Government acted in contrary nature. The Chief Minister cannot be said on the affidavit evidence to possess committed acts of violence and intimidation; thus the entire affidavit evidence establishes that the petitioner’s allegations imputing mala fide against the Chief Minister were baseless. For these reasons the contentions of the petitioner failed, the petition was dismissed and each party was made to pay and bear the costs.


The classification test has a component of non-arbitrariness that permits the assessment of state action to make sure that it’s non-arbitrary from the purpose of view of equality. the talk on the selection between the old doctrine of reasonable classification and therefore the new doctrine of non-arbitrariness overlooks the very fact that the normal equality test is a component of non-arbitrariness, an interpretation of Article 14 which deals with many conceptual concerns in understanding and interpreting the relevance of non-arbitrary assessment of Article 14. Article 14 is exhaustively discussed in this case and it is a sensitive classification. The two vital points in this article to look into the intelligible differential and reasonable nexus. Thus this test has both a moral principle and the rule of rationality. The limit to the variables behind the classification. This evaluation can be a calculation of non-arbitrariness; the scope requires equality under Article 14. However, within the event of an instance of enforcement within a category to which it refers, the full-spectrum review is permitted as an individual has the proper to the complete protection of the rationality of the law. 



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