Concept of Rule of law is very old. It is an ancient ideal, and ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle also discussed it. The term ‘Rule of Law’ has been derived from a French phrase and this French phrase means principal of legality. Now, Rule of Law is a legal maxim and this maxim emphasizes on equality before law. According to this maxim, both government and citizens are subject to known and established laws and are not above law.
According to Aristotle Rule of Law as “Government by law is superior to Government by men”.
Importance of Rule of Law
The Rule of Law expresses a preference for law and order within a community rather than anarchy, warfare and constant strife. The Rule of Law is a philosophical view of society which is linked with basic just thoughts. Furthermore, the standard of law communicates a legitimate doctrine of key significance, specifically, that administration must be directed according to law, and that disputed cases what the law requires is declared by judicial decision. Thirdly, the Rule of Law refers to a body of political opinion about what the detailed Rule of Law should provide in matters both of substance and of procedure.
Proponents of the Rule of Law are however likely to support constitutional protection for human rights by such means as a judicially enforceable Bill or Rights, so that legislation affecting fundamental rights may be subject to review in the courts.
Government according to law
It is a basic rule of constitutional law that the organs of government must themselves work through law. In the event that the police need to keep a national or if taxes are to be required, the authorities concerned must have the capacity to show legal authority for their actions.
The doctrine of government according to law requires that a person directly affected by government action must be able, if necessary to challenge the legality of that action before a court, and not merely to register a complaint with the department concerned.
The Rule of Law does however require that public authorities and officials are subjects are subject to effective sanctions if they depart from the law. Often the sanctions is that their acts are declared invalid by the courts. But another sanction is the duty to compensate citizens whose rights have been infringed.
Rule of Law in British Constitution
In Great Britain, Rule of Law was developed over centuries. Struggle for supremacy between British Parliament and British Monarch paved a way for development of this maxim in Great Britain. Explanation of following points is important for further study of this maxim as far as Great Britain is concerned:
Rule of Law is a significant aspect of British Constitution and is an important part of British politics. British constitution recognizes that both government and people should be subject to law.
Determination of Rights of Individuals
It is an admitted principle in Great Britain that rights of individuals should be determined by legal rules and not by arbitrary powers. Earlier, it was arbitrary powers of Monarch, which determined rights of individual, but now rights are determined by law. For people now possesses right like right to speech, gather and so on.
No Punishment Unless Breach of Law
It is also a settled principle in Great Britain that there can be no punishment unless a court decides that there has been a breach of law. To achieve this goal, judiciary has been made independent.
Subject to law
It is another recognized principle is Great Britain that everyone, regardless of his/her status in society, is subject to the law. In other words, government and citizens are not above law. In this way, government and citizens have been made subject to law and misuse of powers has been checked.
Equality before Law
This principle i.e. equality before law is strictly observed in Great Britain. Due to such strict observance all are considered equal before law.
Vicarious Liability of Ministers
In Great Britain, all ministers are considered responsible for mistake of a minister. Such vicarious liability of ministers guarantees Rule of Law in Great Britain.
The expression “Rule of Law” connotes the undisputed supremacy of law. This supremacy of law is designed to give the security to the rights of the British subjects. Further more the rule of law as expounded by Dicey needs modification; however, it is still a principle of the English Constitution.