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What is meant by Rule of Law

August 30, 2019

The term “Rule of Law” do not have a fixed definition. Hence it is a concept which is capable of several interpretations by several scholars. However, the objective of the rule of law is that of the supremacy or sovereignty of law over all individuals in a country. The rule of law ensures that every individual, regardless of power, rank or status, should be equally open to to the law. Hence, Aristotle wrote in his book, The Politics, “Where the law do not rule, there is no constitution”.[1]
The Secretary-General of United nations described the concept of rule of law as “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.”[2]
According to the British law professor A.V. Dicey, the rule of law is based on three main principles. The first is, no man could be punished by an authority unless it is mentioned as a punishable act in the law. The second the principle says that ordinary courts should be applying ordinary law when determining the disputes of citizens and government officials. The last principle of rule of law according to A.V. Dicey says that, fundamental rights of the citizen including the freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of person are derived from natural law. Hence they are not dependent on constitution, declarations or any guaranty.[3]

[1] Constitutional and Administrative Law, 6th Edition, Hilaire Barnett
[2]Report of the Secretary-General: The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies (S/2004/616).

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