The Doctrine of Rule of Law – By Kamaluddin Khan

By Kamaluddin Khan,

The expression ‘Rule of Law’ has been derived from the French phrase ‘la principle de legalite’, i.e. a Government based on the principles of law. In simpplied by the state in the administration of justice. The Rule of law, according to Gamer, is of en used simply to describe the state le words, the term ‘rule of law’ indicates the state of affairs in a country where, in main, the law mules. Law may be taken to mean mainly a rule or principle which governs the external actions of the human beings and which is recognised and apof affairs in a country where, in main, the law is observed and order is kept. It is an expression synonymous with law and order.

The basis of Administrative Law is the ‘Doctrine of the Rule of Law’. It was expounded for the first time by Sri Edward Coke, and was developed by Prof. A.V.Diccy in his book ‘The law of the Constitution’ published in 1885. According Coke, in a battle against King, he should be under God and the Lank thereby the Supremacy of Law is established.

Dicey regarded rule of law as the bedrock of the British Legal System:. ‘Fins doctrine is accepted in the constitutions of U.S.A. and India.

According to Prof. Diccy, rules of law contains three principles or it has three meanings as stated below:

1. Supremacy of or the Firs( meaning of the Rule of Law.

2. Equality before Law or the Second meaning of the Rule of Law: and

3. Predominance of Legal Spirit or the Third meaning of the Rule of Lim.

1. Supremacy of Law: The First meaning of the Rule of Law is that ‘no man is punishable or can lawfully be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. It implies that a man may be punished for .a breach of law. but cannot be punished for anything else. No man can be punished except for a breach of law. An alleged offence is required to be proved before the ordinary courts in accordance with the ordinary procedure.
2. Equality before Law:- The Second meaning of the Rule of Law is that no man is above law. Every man whatever be his rank or condition is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals.

Prof. Dicey states That, there must be equality before the law or equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land. He criticised the French legal system of droit Administrative in which there were separate administrative tribunals for deciding the cases of State Officials and citizens separately. He criticises such system as negation of law

3. Predominance of Legal Spirit: – The Third meaning of the rule of law is that the general principles of the constitution are the result of juridical decisions determining file rights of private persons in particular cases brought before the Court.

Dicey states that many constitutions of the states (countries) guarantee their citizens certain rights (fundamental or human or basic rights) such as right to personal liberty, freedom from arrest etc. According to him. documentary guarantee of such rights is not enough. Such rights can be made available to the citizens only when they are properly enforceable in the Courts of law, For Instance, in England there is no written constitution and such rights are the result judicial decision.

Application of the Doctrine in England: Though, there is no written constitution, the rule of law is applied in concrete cases. In England, the Courts are the guarantors of the individual rights. Rule of law establishes an effective control over the executive and administrative power.

However, Dicey’s rule of law was not accepted in full in England. In those days, many statutes allowed priority of administrative power in many cases, and the same was not challenged better c the Courts. Further sovereign immunity existed on the ground of King can do no wrong’. The sovereign immunity was abolished by the ‘Crown Proceedings Act, 1947. Prof. Dicey could not distinguish arbitrary power from discretionary power, and failed to understand the merits of French legal system.

Rule of Law under the Constitution of India:- The doctrine of Rule of Law has been adopted in Indian Constitution. The ideals of the Constitution, justice. liberty and equality are enshrined (embodied) in the preamble.

The Constitution of India has been made the supreme law of the country and other laws arc required to be in conformity with the Constitution. Any law which is found in violation of any provision of the Constitution is declared invalid.

Part III of the Constitution of India guarantees the Fundamental Rights. Article 13(l) of the Constitution makes it clear that all laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of the Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provision of Part ill dealing with the Fundamental Rights, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void. Article 13(2) provides that the State should not make any law which takes away or abridges the fundamental rights and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void. The Constitution guarantees equality before law and equal protection of laws. Article 21 guarantees right to life and personal liberty. It provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Article 19 (1) (a) guarantees the third principle of rule of law (freedom of such and expression).

Article 19 guarantees six Fundamental Freedoms to the citizens of India — freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly, freedom to form associations or unions, freedom to live in any part of the territory of India and freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business. The right to these freedoms is not absolute, but subject to the reasonable restrictions which may be imposed by the State.

Article 20(1) provides that no person shall he convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence not be subject to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted tinder the law in for cc at the time of the commission of the offence. According to Article 20(2), no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. Article 20(3) makes it clear that no person accused of the offence shall be compelled to be witness against himself. In India, Constitution is supreme and the three organs of the Government viz. Legislature, Executive and judiciary are subordinate to it. The Constitution provided for encroachment of one organ (E.g.: Judiciary) upon another (E.g.: Legislature) if its action is mala fide, as the citizen (individual) can challenge under Article 32 of the Constitution.

In India, the meaning of rule of law has been much expanded. It is regarded as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and, therefore, it cannot be abrogated or destroyed even by Parliament. It is also regarded as a part of natural justice.

In Kesavanda Bharti vs. State of Kerala (1973) – The Supreme Court enunciated the rule of law as one of the most important aspects of the doctrine of basic structure.

In Menaka Gandhi vs. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597 – The Supreme Court declared that Article 14 strikes against arbitrariness.

In Indira Gandhi Nehru vs. Raj Narahr, Alit 1975 SC 2299 – Article 329-A was inserted in the Constitution under 39th amendment, which provided certain immunities to the election of office of Prime Minister from judicial review. The Supreme Court declared Article 329-A as invalid since it abridges the basic structure of the Constitution.

In A.D.M Jabalpur vs. ,Shivakant Shukla (1976) 2 SCC 521 AIR 1976 SC 1207 – This case is popularly known as Habeas Corpus Case.

On 25th June, emergency was proclaimed under Article 359. Large number of persons was arrested under N11SA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act. 1971) without informing the grounds for arrest. Some of there filed petition in various high Courts for writ of Heabeas Corpus. The petitioners contend that their detention is violation of Article 21. It was argued on the other side that the protection tinder Article 21 is not available (suspended) during emergency. The preliminary objection (not to file writ petitions during emergency). The Preliminary objection (not to file writ petitions during emergeyc) was rejected by various High Courts. The Madhya Pradesh Government through Additional District Magistrate. Jabalpur and Government of India filed appeals before Supreme Court.

The question before Supreme Court was, whether there was any rule of law in India apart front Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court by majority held that there is no rule of law other than the constitutional rule of law. Article 21 is our rule of law. If it is suspended, there is not rule of law.

Kamaluddin Khan


Patna Law College,

Patna University Patna