Rule of law

What is the meaning of rule of law?

Meaning of Rule of Law: – The rule of law, means that no person is above the law and also that every person is subject to the jurisdiction of the general courts of law, irrespective of their position. The word rule of law has been originated from England and India. The concept of rule of law further requires that no person should be treated harshly or arbitrarily.

In the rule of law the word ‘law‘ means that all men or society should not be governed by a man or ruler, but by law. In other words, according to Article 13 of the Indian Constitution, law means the law of the land.

As per rule of law, it is required that the people should be governed by the accepted rules rather than the decisions that are arbitrarily taken by the rulers. For this, it is essential to keep in mind that the rules that are made should be general and abstract, known and certain and it should apply equally to all individuals. Legal limitation on government is the essential attribute of constitutionalism. Rulers are not above law under the concept of constitutionalism, government power is divided with laws enacted by one body and administered by another and for that an independent judiciary exists to ensure laws.

rule of law

According to Black’s Law Dictionary: ‘Rule of Law’ means the legal principles of day-to-day application, expressed by the governing body or authorities as approved and a logical proposition.

According to the Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary: The ‘Rule of Law’ means the situation in which all citizens as well as states are governed by law.

Postulates of Rule of Law

In 1885, Professor AV Dicey developed this concept and propounded the three principles or propositions of the rule of law in his classic book “Law and the Constitution”. According to Professor AV Dicey, in order to achieve the supreme three principles of law should be followed which are as follows: –

  1. Supremacy of Law: According to the first postulate, the rule of law refers to the lack of arbitrary or broad discretionary power. To understand it simply, every person must be governed by law. The supremacy of law is a fundamental concept in the Western democratic system. In the rule of law both citizens and governments should be subject to known and permanent laws. The supremacy of law also requires comprehensiveness in law. This principle is another development of the principle of equality before law.
  2. Equality Before Law: Equality before law, also known as equality under law, equality in the eyes of law, legal equality, or legal egalitarianism, is the principle that every person must be treated equally by law (the principle of equity) and everyone is subject to the same laws of justice (due process).
  3. Predominance of Legal Spirit: The phrase legal spirit refers to the spirit of justice. This concept advocates the principle that law should be according to justice and not vice-versa. He was against providing rights such as the right to personal liberty, freedom, etc. in the written constitution of the country. The constitution is not the source but the consequence of the rights of the individuals thus these rights should be a result of the judicial decisions.

Rule of law under Indian Constitution

To develop Indian democracy, the rule of law has played a great role. At the time of the constitution’s framing, the Framers had two options, namely the USA and England. Some provisions were adopted from the United States and some of them were adopted from England. The rule of law was adopted from England by our constitutional father and many provisions were incorporated in the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution is considered supreme and no one is above the Indian Constitution. The rule of law is also enshrined in the Preamble and such concept is contained in Part III of the Indian Constitution.

In case of violation of such rights, one can approach the Supreme Court or High Court under Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution of India is enriched by the principles of law i.e. justice, equality and freedom. Any law made by the Central Government or the State Government should be complied with as per the Constitution of India. If any law made by the legislature violates the provisions of the Constitution, such law shall be declared void.

Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to issue writ in the Nature of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo-Warranto and Certiorari. The power of judicial review is also given to prevent any ultra vires law so that the rule of law can be preserved.

Role of Indian Judiciary

There is a number of cases where the concept of rule of law was discussed and came to light. Some cases are as follows: –

  1. ADM Jabalpur vs. Shivkant Shukla
    • This case is also known as the Habeas Corpus case. It is one of the most important when the rule of law comes. The question that was raised before the Honorable Court was whether there was any law in India other than Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This was related to the Proclamation of Emergency, where the enforcement of Articles 14, 21 and 22 was suspended.
  1. Chief Settlement Commissioner, Punjab vs. Om Prakash
    • In this case, the Supreme Court observed our constitutional system, the central and most distinctive feature being the concept of the rule of law which means, in the present context, the right of legal courts to test all administrative action at the legal level. Administrative or executive action that does not meet the standard will be set aside if the aggrieved person brings the matter to attention.


From the above mentioned discussion, it can be concluded that Supremacy of law is the Aim, Rule of Law is the best tool to achieve the Aim. Some of the efforts are also taken by the court where the Rule of Law is linked with Human Rights of the people. Strategy is being evolved by the court by which government can be forced not only to submit to law but also to create conditions where capacities can be developed by the people so as to enjoy their rights in proper and meaningful manner.

In the Indian society, the rule of law has not achieved the intended results. A few examples where rule of law was upheld by our judiciary and ensured justice can be clearly seen in the creation of new avenues seeking remedies for human rights violations by filing of PIL pleas.

The originator of this concept i.e. Sir Edward Coke, the Chief Justice of King James I’s reign maintained that the King should be under God and the law and also he established the supremacy of law against the executive and that there is nothing higher than law.

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