Rule of Law

The notion behind the rule of law is that no one, not even the most powerful official, is above the law and that all aspects of creating, upholding, and interacting with legal norms are governed by the law. Governments are legally restricted, which requires them to follow the same laws to govern the citizens. Thus, the idea of equality before the law, which states that no "legal" person shall enjoy privileges that are not accorded to all people and that no person shall be immune from legal sanctions, is a concept that is closely related.

What is Rule of Law?

In order to comprehend the concept of the rule of law, it is necessary to know that the state is ruled by the law and not by the ruler or the elected officials chosen by the populace. The Indian Constitution contains no definition of the phrase "Rule of Law," despite the fact that the Indian judiciary frequently uses it in judgments. According to the Supreme Court, the rule of law is one of the fundamental tenets of the Constitution and, as such, cannot be changed, not even by a constitutional amendment. A crucial component of good governance is the rule of law.

According to the rule of law, it is necessary for the populace to be ruled by established laws rather than by the rulers' arbitrary judgments. For this reason, it is crucial to remember that any rules created should be universally applicable, general and abstract, and recognized and certain. The fundamental quality of constitutionalism is the legal restraint on the executive branch. According to the concept of constitutionalism, rulers are not above the law because laws are passed by one body and implemented by another, and an independent court is in place to uphold the laws.

The term "law" in the phrase "rule of law" denotes that a person or a group of people must be subject to the law rather than a man or a ruler.

The definition of rule of law has been somewhat enlarged in the Indian context. The Supreme Court has on numerous occasions used its rulings to further clarify and illustrate the rule of law and advance the fundamental ideas set forth by A.V. Dicey. It is considered as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and, hence, it cannot be abrogated or destroyed even by the Parliament. The ideals of constitution; liberty, equality and fraternity have been enshrined in the preamble. No person shall be subjected to harsh, uncivilized, or discriminatory treatment, even if the goal is to safeguard law and order, according to the rule of law.

Le Principe de Legalité, which translates to "the principle of legality," is the French word from which the term "Rule of Law" is derived. India has embraced the phrase "rule of law," which was first coined in England. The Indian Constitution's Article 13 mentions the rule of law. Simply expressed, the rule of law entails that everyone is subject to the authority of regular courts of law and that no one is above the law, regardless of their position or status. No one should be treated arbitrarily or harshly, according to the idea of the rule of law.


Following are some of the significant definitions −

According to Black's Law Dictionary− "Rule of law" refers to legal precepts that are applied on a daily basis, endorsed by the relevant authorities, and articulated as a logical premise.

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary− “The scenario in which all citizens, as well as the state, are governed by the law is described as the "Rule of law".

According to Prof. Wade− Specifying the rule of law "The rule of law requires that the government be subject to the law rather than the law being subject to the government."

According to Max Weber − One of the fundamental and overarching elements of the constitution is the rule of law." Legal domination as a notion of government by law rather than an idea of men.”

According to Dicey− “It is a cornerstone of the English legal system, and the doctrine has the following three characteristics −

I. Supremacy of Law − The rule of law refers to the complete dominance or supremacy of regular law as opposed to the impact of arbitrary power or broad discretionary power. It implies the removal of the possibility of government arbitrary behavior. Furthermore, this essentially means that a man cannot be legally detained, punished, or forced to suffer in his body or property unless he has gone through a fair legal process and violated a rule of law that was created in accordance with conventional legal procedure before a regular court of law.

II. Equality before the Law − It simply states everyone is equal in front of the law. No privilege will be given based on religion, race, caste, sex, or any such criteria. The provision of special tribunals and the exclusion of civil officials from the jurisdiction of regular courts of law amounted to a denial of equality. Furthermore, he claimed that any limitations on the subject's unrestricted access to the courts and any encroachments on their authority would be in violation of his rights.

III. Judge made Constitution − Dicey noted that whereas many other nations have written constitutions that protect rights like the right to personal liberty, the right to be free from arrest, the right to organize public assemblies, etc., this is not the case in England. In England, those rights are the outcome of court rulings in specific instances where the parties were genuinely involved. Thus, he stressed the judiciary's function as guarantors of liberty and made the argument that the rights would be better safeguarded if they were enforceable in court rather than just being stated in a document.

Therefore, the essence of the rule of law is that all actors, including citizens and government officials, governed by the law.

Exceptions of Rule of Law

There are some variations on the idea of the rule of law, such as −

  • The phrase "equality of law" does not mean that individual rights are on an even footing with those of public servants. For instance, a police officer has the power to arrest that a private person does not.

  • The application of special laws to particular groups of individuals is permissible under the rule of law; for instance, the armed forces are governed by military law.

  • It allows ministers and other administrative bodies considerable latitude.

  • Lawmakers, medical professionals, and nurses, for example, are subject to particular standards specific to their fields of practice.


The rule of law is a common provision, as most of the states work under this provision. The basic postulate of this legal provision is − law is supreme and not the person or government. This provision protects every citizen’s rights without any privilege or discrimination. It gives every individual an equal opportunity to present their points. In order to create a system where the Rule of Law may function freely, issues like outdated legislation and crowded courts are small roadblocks that need to be addressed properly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is an illustration of a law?

All facets of American life are governed by the Rule of Law. For instance, traffic laws specify who has the right of way, and environmental laws and regulations specify what we are permitted to release into the earth, the air, and the water.

Q. What are the fundamental guiding principles of the legal system?

The fundamental guiding principles of the legal system are − civil justice, restricted government power, fundamental rights, and the execution of regulations.

Q. What does the term "rule of law" initially mean?

Everybody must abide by the law, including elected officials (government), law enforcement agents, and judges, according to the rule of law. In this way, it differs from tyranny or oligarchy, where the ruling class is considered above the law.

Q. What role does the rule of law play?

It protects the civil and political rights, as well as the equality and dignity of all people. It also instructs − what to do, in case of violation of someone’s rights.

Q. What is the most significant legal principle?

In today’s world, the most significant legal principle is the rule of law, which means that the law is supreme and not a person or government. Everyone (individuals as well as governments) has to follow the rule of law and accordingly ensure equality in society.