To grasp the idea of the rule of law, one must realise that the state is ruled by the law, not by the ruler or the people's selected representatives. Although the term 'Rule of Law' is not specified in the Indian Constitution, it is frequently utilised by the Indian judiciary in its decisions. The Supreme Court has deemed the rule of law to be the most fundamental aspect of the Constitution, and even a constitutional amendment won't change it. The rule of law is regarded as an essential component of good government.

England coined the phrase "rule of law," which India has adopted. According to the rule of law premise, no one should be treated harshly, or arbitrary treatment should be given. The word "law" in the phrase "rule of law" refers to the fact that the law, rather than a man or ruler, must regulate a person or a group. To put it another way, the rule of law refers to the law of the country, as defined by Article 13 of the Indian Constitution.

The word, which is borrowed from the French expression, is ascribed to Sir Edward Coke "la principe de legalite," which means "the principle of legality." A. V. Dicey created the groundwork for the Rule of Law doctrine, which is still the most prevalent today. He founded three pillars, all of which are founded on the notion that "administration should be based on principles of law, not of men":


Dicey's notion of the rule of law begins with this pillar. It implies that the law has authority over everybody as well as the individuals who administer it. According to him, the law is supreme, which means it is above the arbitrary power of the government and it defines the rule of law. In other words, only if an individual breaches the law should that result in punishment. A person cannot be given punishment only according to the power of the government; it must follow the law.

Dicey further said that when the law reigns supreme, discretion is out the window. He imagines that decisions and arbitrariness are linked.


This is the second key pillar of Dicey’s idea. In other words, everyone, irrespective of his status, is not subject to special courts but only regular law and the authority of ordinary courts. Hence, he deems that everyone should be part of the same set of laws that have to be decided by the civil courts.


This is the third pillar in Dicey's idea of the Rule of Law. According to Dicey, there must be an enforcing power for the rule of law to thrive, and he found that authority in the courts. He believes that as the court has the authority to enforce the rule of law, the court should not be biassed and should not be part of any interference from outside. For the rule of law to survive, the judiciary must be independent. He said that the ultimate protection of an individual's principles is the courts of law, not the written constitution. Dicey's thesis has been criticised by various people due to different perspectives, but his main contention is that "power is drawn from and wielded according to law". Dicey focuses more on "equality before the law, and "legal protection of basic human rights" as these are the basic values of every democratic society rather than arbitrary and unrestricted power.


The rule of law has been critical in the development of Indian democracy. The founders had two alternatives when drafting the Constitution: the United States or England. Some provisions came from the United States, while others came from the United Kingdom. Our founding fathers borrowed the rule of law from England, and the Indian Constitution includes several stipulations. Nobody is above the Indian Constitution. The notion is also established in "Part III of the Indian Constitution", which is suggested in the preamble.

"Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution" provide for recourse to the Apex Court or Lower Court in the event of a violation of such rights. Justice, equality, and liberty are among the legal concepts included in the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution requires that all laws made by the federal and state governments be obeyed. Any legislative act that violates the Constitution is declared null and void.

There have been several instances where the subject of the rule of law has been explored and brought to light. The following are some examples:


"ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla" is an important case of "Habeas Corpus". In this instance, the court was asked if India has any other laws except Article 21. During the declaration of an emergency, Articles 14, 21, and 22 were suspended. When the question was put before the bench, the majority replied in negative. In dissent from the majority decision, Justice H.R. Khanna stated:

"Even in absence of Article 21 in the Constitution, the state has got no power to deprive a person of his life and liberty without the authority of law. Without such sanctity of life and liberty, the distinction between a lawless society and one governed by laws would cease to have any meaning…Rule of Law is now the accepted norm of all civilized societies"[1]


Apex Court observed in this case that "In our constitutional system, the central and most characteristic feature is the concept of rule of law which means, in the present context, the authority of law courts to test all administrative action by the standard of legality. The administrative or executive action that does not meet the standard will be set aside if the aggrieved person brings the matter into notice."[2]


It has been laid down in this case by the Constitutional bench that "Thus, it is clear that adherence to the rule of equality in public employment is a basic feature of our Constitution and since the rule of law is the core of our Constitution, a court would certainly be disabled from passing an order upholding a violation of Article 14 or in ordering the overlooking of the need to comply with the requirements of Article 14 read with Article 16 of the Constitution."[3]


"The Supreme Court ruled that the Rule of Law is an integral aspect of the constitution's basic framework and that it cannot be changed by any Act of Parliament, demonstrating how the law is superior to any other human power."[4]


In a civilised democratic parliamentary government, the "rule of law" is a basic element of the government. Arbitrariness is the opposite of it. The rule of law is important in a democratic country like India. To commit a crime a procedure needs to be followed. The culprit is detained until the outcome of the case. Questions are asked of suspects. There is evidence gathered. There will be interrogations. A case has been assembled. The testimony along with the evidence is scrutinised by the court. Then the accused is eligible to get legal representation.

After thorough evaluation of the case and after applying the law, the judges give a judgement which can be challenged. The same is followed by every society not just because the law of crime states that the accused is innocent till the time, he is proven guilty but also as it is the only approach to give this system some amount of credibility which also allows for exercise of arbitrary power. The rule of law states that every individual even if he is a criminal is entitled to the "basic human rights and the due process of law". The foundation of any society is adherence to the rule of law. If it is not followed, democracy is nothing but just a slogan.

[1] A D M Jabalpur v. Shivkanth Shukla, AIR 1976 SC 1207, para 154

[2] AIR 1969 SC 33.

[3] AIR 2006 SC 1806

[4] AIR 1973 SC 1461

This article is written by Aman Tiwari of Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida.

Recent Posts

See All

Introduction Section 262 defines one person company as meaning a corporation which has only one person as a member section 3(1)(c) provides for incorporating such a company by saying that a company ma

“Where there is a right, there is a remedy” In order to provide relief in cases relating to breach of contracts and in the cases relating to law of torts Specific Relief Act, 1877 was enacted which wa