The Doctrine of Non-Arbitrariness:

The doctrine of “Non-Arbitrariness” is said to have contrary views and provisions with that of our Indian Constitution. The term “Arbitrariness” is getting determined by a mere chance or event and not by necessity or reason. It is mostly used by the advocates but it is still not very known in the categories of scholars. The development of this doctrine took place in one of the Supreme Court’s famous cases. It is also said that the relationship between the doctrine of non-arbitrariness and article-14 (Every state should provide the right of equality before the law and protection of law to the citizens within the Indian territories) is one part which comes under the test of reasonable classification. Application of the doctrine of non-arbitrariness is regarded as an executive action and is still ambiguous . It is not directly connected with the article-14 of our Indian Constitution. 

This article contemplates the meaning of the doctrine of non-arbitrariness, the case through which this doctrine got evolved, brief history, is there any relationship between article-14 and doctrine of non-arbitrariness? Nexus test or test of reasonable classification with the doctrine of non-arbitrariness and the case laws.


 The doctrine of “Non- Arbitrariness” and the Indian Constitution both of them are contradictory to each other.  Article-14 of the Constitution, says that “Every state shall give the right of equality before the law and to equally protecting of law to the citizens within the Indian territories”. The Judicial system applied the test of reasonable classification so as to know that how a state applies Article-14 or takes action under the said article and in the year 1947, the new doctrine of non- arbitrariness got evolved, through this doctrine any action which is taken by the state will directly violate Article-14. The Doctrine of Arbitrariness has always remained different since its evolution and it is also believed by some of the jurists that this doctrine harms Article-14.

Case law which lead to the evolution of this doctrine: 

E.P. Royappa v State of Tamil Nadu & Anr[1]

Supreme Court in this case, further interpreted Article-14 of the constitution giving greater importance to “Equality and giving Equal protection of law”. Every citizen should be treated equally without been discriminated against on the grounds of creed, gender, age, religion, etc and it gave a new aspect to Article-14 and held it as a guarantee which is against the doctrine of arbitrariness. According to this doctrine, it enables “reasonable classification” of people and a thing but prohibits the classification of class. 

But, in the latest judgment given by the apex court in Rajbala v State of Haryana[2]:

Scope and the contents of the doctrine were supported by the constitutional bench of Supreme Court. 

Brief History:[3]

The term “Arbitrary” in the doctrine is derived from a Latin word which means giving authority to a person capable of judging a case. Some of the countries have banned this doctrine. According to the Swiss Federal Constitution has rejected the choices which banns the arbitrary power of the government and the same was set aside by the Supreme Court of the US as the precedents had no basis. In the latest study conducted by, US asylum schemes it says to make any decision, the doctrine of non-arbitrariness can lead to various kinds of differences. According to Article-330 of the Russian Penal Code, arbitrariness is regarded as a specific crime, which covers a vast definition of crimes which that are considered against their legislations.

Is there any relationship between Article-14 and Doctrine of Non-Arbitrariness?[4]

It is more rational to start with the lines of Article-14 “Every State shall not deny any citizen equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the prescribed territory of India”. 

The first half of this article clearly states that no individual is above the law and on the other hand, in its second half portion its that every individual should be provided equal protection of law. For example, A is a businessman who is rich and B who is a middle-class person, so both of these should be equally protected by the law and no discrimination should be made between the two classes. 

If there is an exception to the principle of equality and the State thinks fit that such exception is a reasonable ground for treating the two different individuals differently. The State relies on reasonable grounds for taking up any state action against any individual citizen of a state which acts as an important link or connection between Article-14 which focuses on the concept of equality and the doctrine of arbitrariness which talks about the rationality.

Why Article-14 is regarded against the doctrine of state arbitrary actions?

To have better clarity and understanding about this concept, let’s assume the following points:

  • Law gives equal importance to everyone.
  • Even after been equal people differs based on their skin colour, gender, physical appearance, mental ability, etc.
  • After keeping the above points in mind, it is very difficult for a state to have universal laws for every individual, so the state can differentiate people on reasonable grounds based on their different characteristics which includes physical appearance, mental or thinking ability, etc.

To sum up, the State can differentiate between individuals based on their reasonable classification which are stated above.

Nexus Test/Test of Reasonable Classification with the Doctrine of Non-Arbitrariness:

The best way to know that whether the action taken by the State was against the Article-14 or not is to do the test of reasonable classification. In this test, the main thing which is been tested is that are the citizens of the state are treated equally or not and if not, then why are they not treated equally? This principle revolves around the concept that all the people should be treated equally which must be looked after by the state.

In the case of E.P. Royappa, Supreme Court discovered the new concept of equality which was part and parcel of non-arbitrariness.

In the rational test of classification, arbitrariness has been removed and has created a lot of confusion therein. Article-14 and doctrine of non- arbitrariness are two parallel concepts in which a State should treat every individual equally and can only differentiate between them on the basis of test of reasonable classification, i.e., those citizens who are different in their physical appearance, thinking and analytical skills, etc, can be treated differently but not on the basis of the cast, religion, gender, etc. 

Case Laws:

E.P. Royappa v State of Tamil Nadu & Anr [5]

Supreme Court in this case, further interpreted Article-14 of the constitution giving greater importance to “Equality and giving Equal protection of the law”. Every citizen should be treated equally without been discriminated on the grounds of creed, gender, age, religion, etc and it gave a new aspect to Article-14 and held it as a guarantee which is against the doctrine of arbitrariness. According to this doctrine, it enables “reasonable classification” of people and a thing but prohibits the classification of class. 

Air India v Nergesh Meerza[6]

In this case, Supreme Court held that, Article-14 creates hostile discrimination but no reasonable classification and if the equals and unequals are treated differently it will not create any kind of discrimination under article-14 of Indian Constitution and discrimination will only be created when the equals will be created differently. It was further held that, where one class of people is doing different works with different characteristics even then no discrimination should be made.  

State of Andhra Pradesh v Mc Dowell & Co[7]

It was held categorically that no law can be struck down merely because of being unreasonable. If a statue gives a procedure for the execution of classifying the people.

Malpe Vishwanath v State of Maharashtra[8]

In this case, the court declared an act (Bombay Rent Act) being violative of Article-14 of Constitution, as the legislature became arbitrary with due course of time and for deriving at such decision the court took the help of an old doctrine.

M/S Sharma Rep by Shree Transport v Govt of Andhra Pradesh[9]:

In this case, it was observed that the term “arbitrarily” means being unreasonable. It also means that when an action is taken without adequately keeping in mind the true meaning of the principle and it solely depends upon the will and not according to a judgement or a reason.


The concept of Article-14 and the doctrine of non-arbitrariness are two separate concepts that cannot be clubbed together. Article-14 rejects the concept of class legislation whereas ,on the other hand, the concept of arbitrariness occurs when a classification is been made without stating any particular reason or cause or not treating people equally and any classification is been made by the article-14 then it will be regarded as discriminatory and will go against our Constitution. However, if enforcement of law within a class and it is violating certain rights of an individual then that person has a right to approach either to High Court (under article-226 of Constitution) or to Supreme Court (under article-32) for the enforcement of such rights.

Question and Answers:

Q-1 When can an individual approach for the enforcement of their rights (fundamental rights)?

A person can either approach High Court under Article-226 or Supreme Court under Article-32 of our Indian Constitution for the enforcement of rights.

Q-2 On what basis State can differentiate between different individuals?

A state can differentiate between people only on the basis of their mental or thinking abilities or physical appearances (for example if a person is having the certain kind of deformity then that person will get more privileges then that of the other individual is physically fit).

Q-3 From where does the term “arbitrary” has derived from?

The term “Arbitrary” has been derived from a Latin term.

Q-4 What does the term “Arbitrary” means?

The term “Arbitrary” means when a person is given power or an authority to judge a certain matter or a case.

Q-5 What does Article-14 of the Indian constitution talk about?

Article-14 of or Indian Constitution talks about that everyone is equal in the eyes of law and everyone without been discriminated against should  get equally protected by the law.


[1] (1974) 4 SCC 3

[2] (2016) 2 SCC 445



[5] 1974) 4 SCC 3

[6] AIR 1981 SC 1829

[7] (1996) 3 SCR  721 

[8] (1998) 2 SCC 1

[9] 2001

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