What do you understand by ‘Rule of Law’ ?

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Rule of Law is a unique feature of the British constitution while Administrative Law is a characteristic feature of the constitutions of continental countries such as France and Germany. Rule of Law ordinar­ily implies a government of laws and not of men.

Law is supreme over all. None can claim exemption from law. Rule of law according to Dicey has two implications, (a) Firstly, it means that “no person is punishable or can be lawfully 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 Law.

” In simple words, it means that no person can be arrested, detained or imprisoned without a fair and proper trial in court of law. It further implies that no person can be deprived of his life, property, or liberty arbitrarily. One can be punished only if a specific breach of law is proved in die ordinary course.

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Thus we find that Rule of Law establishes the supremacy of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power. In England, where the principle of Rule of Law forms the foundation of her legal system, no person can be given any arbitrary punishment. A person can be arrested only if such arrest is authorized by law. Every person is to be tried in ordinary courts even when some anti- state crime is committed.

In England, there are no special tribunals or extra-ordinary courts for the trial of crimes against the state. The ordinary courts take cognizance of these cases and trials are held according to law when cases are filed before them by the government.

(b) Second implication of the Rule of Law is that “no person is above law, and every person, whatever his rank or position, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of ordinary tribunals”. In the sense, government officials are bound to obey the ordinary laws which govern private citizens and are subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary law courts.

This feature of the Rule of Law establishes equality before the law. In Britain, says Dicey, “Every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification, as any other citizen”.

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Both officials and non-officials are tried in similar courts administering similar law. This is in contrast to the system of Administrative law prevailing in France and other continental countries where the disputes involving the government or its officials are beyond the sphere of ordinary courts and must be dealt with by special courts known as administrative courts.

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