The notion of Rule of Law is one of the most fundamental elements of the
English Constitution. The principle is firmly established in all legal systems
across the world, including the US and Indian constitutions.
Chief Justice Edward Coke of England, who served throughout King James I's
reign, is credited with developing this idea. While emphasising the superiority
of the rule of law over the executive, Justice Coke declared that the King
should be subject to both God and the rule of law. Dicey refined Justice Coke's
argument in his classic work "The Law and the Constitution" published in 1885.
What Is Rule Of Law In Administrative Law?
The phrase "Rule of Law" is derived from the French language 'La Principe de
Legalite' (the principle of legitimacy), which refers to a government founded on
the rule of law and justice, as opposed to a dictatorship.
Plato wrote: "Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of
its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is
the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation
is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a
Similarly, Aristotle further underwrites the concept of the Rule of Law that
"law should govern and that in power should be servants of the laws."
As per Prof. A.V.Dicey, "the rule of law means the absolute supremacy or
predominance of the regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power
and excludes the existence of arbitrariness or even of wide discretionary
authority on the part of the government."
Dicey in his work stated that Rule of Law is fundamental to the English legal
system and gives the following three meanings to the doctrine:
Supremacy Of Law According to Dicey, the rule of law is the absolute supremacy or
preponderance of regular law over the impact of arbitrary authority or broad
It signifies that the existence of government arbitrariness is ruled out.
This essentially implies that no one may be arrested, punished, or
legitimately forced to suffer in body or in goods unless via due process of
law and for a violation of a law created in the regular legal method before
the ordinary courts of the nation.
Equality Before Law Dicey noted in defining this part of the idea that there must be equality
before the law or equal submission of all classes to the usual law of the
land administered by ordinary law courts.
Dicey saw the exemption of government officials from the jurisdiction of
ordinary courts of law and the establishment of special tribunals as a
violation of equality.
He noted that any interference with the courts' jurisdiction and any
limitation on the subject's unrestricted access to them are sure to imperil
Predominance Of Legal Spirit Dicey highlighted that whereas in many nations, rights such as the right to
personal liberty, freedom from arrest, and the ability to organise public
assemblies are protected by a written constitution, this is not the case in
In England, the rights are the outcome of judicial judgements in specific
instances involving the parties.
Thus, he emphasised the importance of courts of law as guardians of liberty,
implying that rights would be more fully maintained if they were enforced in
courts of law rather than simply declared in a document.
Applicability Of Concept Of Rule Of Law In India
Supremacy Of Constitution The Indian Constitution is the nation's guiding concept, from which all
other laws get their validity, making all other laws subject to it and
adhering to the postulates of the Rule of Law defined in the Indian
Furthermore, Article 13(1) states that every law made by the legislature
must be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, or it would be
deemed unconstitutional. As a result, every new legislation must comply with
the criteria of the Constitution. Even the phrases justice, sovereignty, and
equality appear in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, which are
obvious signs of a just and fair government with no disparity among the
masses regardless of their socioeconomic level.
Dicey's list of legal equality is incorporated in Article 14 of the Indian
Constitution, which creates the concept of legal equality and equal
protection under the law. The right to life and personal liberty, which is a
fundamental human right, is also guaranteed to all people by the
The term 'rule of law' is not defined in the Indian constitution. However,
it is used by Indian courts in a large number of judgements. The saying 'The
King can do no wrong' does not applicable in India since all public
institutions are subject to the jurisdiction of common law courts and the
same sets of laws. The Indian constitution is the ultimate law of the
nation, surpassing the three branches of government (judiciary, legislature,
and executive). These three governmental entities must follow the values
established in India's constitution.
Constitutional Guarantee And Judicial Enforcement Of Rights By adhering to the legislation put forth by the legislature and enforced by
the courts, the judiciary has constantly strived to protect the Rule of Law
and has had equal support from citizens and the state. Despite the fact that
there have been several instances where individuals have used violence
against Parliamentary acts or court processes, or have participated in
Along with constitutional provisions, the judgements of various courts and
tribunals have played an important part in the interpretation and growth of
the notion of rule of law in India.
Several eminent Indian jurists have stated that the Indian Constitution is
predicated on the principle of the rule of law.
During the hearing of Suman Gupta and others v. State of Jammu and Kashmir
and others in the Supreme Court, Justice R. S. Pathak stated that �
"Rule of Law, and in any system so designed it is impossible to conceive of
legitimate power which is arbitrary in character and travels beyond the
bounds of reason."
The Supreme Court remarked that the Rule of Law, as established in Article
14 of the Constitution, is a fundamental component of the Indian
Constitution and, as such, cannot be altered, cancelled, or modified even by
a constitutional amendment under Article 368 of the Constitution. According
to the third postulate of the Rule of Law concept, India has a robust
judicial system that monitors other organs of government while performing
The Supreme Court held in the landmark case of Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain
that the notion of Rule of Law inherent in Article 14 of the Indian
Constitution defines the 'Basic Structure' of this Constitution. It claims
that even an amendment made under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution
cannot destroy this legal provision.
Elimination Of Arbitrariness, And Not Of Discretion Arbitrariness, not discretion, is excluded from the Indian understanding of
the rule of law. "All governments in history have been governments of laws
and of men," Davis observes. Rules alone, untempered by judgement, are
incapable of dealing with the intricacies of modern administration and
justice. In governance and law, discretion is our primary source of
creativity. To sustain the principles of rule of law in administration, it
is consequently vital to constrain structure and check discretion, so that
discretionary authority does not devolve into arbitrary power.
As Justice Mathew stated in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Rai Narain, there
is no government or judicial system in the world that lacks discretion. It
is not conceivable for a government to be based only on the rule of law, and
those men must not be allowed discretion. All governments are made up of law
The requirements of contemporary governance render broad discretionary
authority ineffective. If discretion is interpreted as arbitrariness, there
may be no one political system with rule of law. Discretion is required for
any political system to function. The only thing that matters is the abuse
Kesavananda Bharti V State Of Kerala
In this case it was being said that rule of law was an aspect of the doctrine of
basic structure of constitution, which even the plenary power of parliament
cannot reach to amend.
Nandani Sundar And Ors V State Of Chattishgarh
In this case, once again the supreme court of India reiterated the majesty of
rule of law upholding democracy. The executive action of supporting youths in
the state of Chhattisgarh with arms to quell naxalism is held to be opposed to
rule of law. This decision is a landmark judgement in upholding the rule of law
and questioning the executive action of supporting Salma Judum in the guise of
checking the naxal menace.
Exceptions To Rule Of Law
The rule of law does not prevent certain classes of persons from being subject
to special rules, for example, the armed forces are governed by military laws.
Ministers and other executive bodies are given wide discretionary powers by the
The founding fathers of India did what the rest of the world thought was
impossible: they established a country that would adhere to the text of the law
and apply the Rule of Law. The Indian Constitution has established sufficient
procedures to guarantee that the Rule of Law is observed in all subjects such as
the preservation of people's rights, equal treatment before the law, and
protection against excessive arbitrariness.
The Courts have worked to strengthen these procedures and ensure the smooth
delivery of justice to all citizens through their rulings. Problems like
obsolete laws and overcrowded courts are minor stumbling blocks, and
organisations like the Law Commission of India try to eliminate them in order to
achieve a system with no impediments to the smooth functioning of the Rule of