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Rule Of Law And Its Application In India

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 state."

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:
  1. 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 discretionary power.

    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.
  2. 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 his rights.
  3. 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 England.

    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

  1. 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 Constitution.

    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 constitution.

    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.
  2. 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 unlawful behaviour.

    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 autonomous work.

    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.
  3. 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 and man.

    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 of discretion.

Case Laws:

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 statute.

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 Law.

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