Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rule of Law

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Governance


Source: IE

 Context: Given the recent incidents in Uttar Pradesh, this article tries to understand the concept of ‘Rule of Law’.


What is the Rule of Law?

 It states that ‘the Law is supreme and no human being has authority over it’. In India, the Rule of Law is guaranteed by the Constitution (Article 14), which means that all authorities must strictly adhere to it.


Three principles of RoL as defined by A.V. Dicey:

Supremacy of LawAll individuals, including government officials, are subject to the law and no one is above the law.If a leader (even President or Prime Minister) is found guilty of corruption, they can be prosecuted and punished according to the law, just like any other citizen.
Equality Before the LawAll individuals are equal under the law and are entitled to the same legal rights and protections, regardless of their social status or wealth.An example of this principle is the requirement for a fair trial, where every accused person is entitled to the same legal rights, such as the right to legal representation, the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial.
Individual RightsThe Rule of Law protects individual rights and freedoms, including property rights, freedom of speech, and personal liberty.The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to own property, etc.


What are the exceptions to the Rule of Law?

Non-answerabilityThe President/Governor is not answerable to any court for the exercise of their powers and duties.
Immunity from Criminal ProceedingsNo criminal case can be initiated against the President/Governor during their tenure.
Notice Period for Civil ProceedingsA two-month notice period must be served before initiating a civil proceeding against the President/Governor.


Rule of Law Vs Rule by Law:

 “Rule of Law” ensures that the law applies equally to everyone, including the government, while “Rule by Law” uses the law as a tool of oppression and allows the government to create laws that may not be just or fair.


Role of Indian Judiciary in Establishing Rule of Law in India:

Role of JudiciaryExample
Assumption of Rule of LawBachhan Singh v. State of Punjab states that the Rule of Law is based on three fundamental assumptions: Legislation should be made by a democratically elected legislature, legislative power should be limited, and an independent judiciary is required to protect citizens from abuses of executive and legislative power.
Protection of Fundamental RightsE.g., in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of India has a basic structure which cannot be amended by the Parliament.
Judicial ReviewManeka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978) established that before a person’s life and liberty are taken away, the law must be valid, there must be a just, reasonable, and fair procedure in the law, and the law must meet the requirements of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution.
Interpretation of LawsIn Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan (1997), the Supreme Court laid down guidelines for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace until the Parliament enacts a law on the subject.


About Rule of Law Index:

As per the Rule of Law Index 2022, India has been ranked 77 out of 140 countries (2019 ranking (68 out of 126 countries))
Released by World Justice Project (WJP)
Factors consideredConstraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice
India’s global rank94 in adherence to fundamental rights, 111 in civil justice, 89 in criminal justice, 93 in absence of corruption
Neighbouring countriesBangladesh (127), Pakistan (129), China (95), Nepal (69)
Ranking of Uttar PradeshThe WJP Index doesn’t provide sub-national ranks, but the India Justice Report 2022 ranks Uttar Pradesh (UP) as the worst-performing state among the 18 large and mid-sized states of India


Why Rule of law matters?


Research (including those done by the World Bank) has shown that stricter adherence to it is positively correlated to:

  • Higher economic growth
  • Better educational attainment
  • Improved health outcomes
  • Greater peace and stability



The Rule of Law is now the accepted norm of all civilized societies, and everywhere it is identified with the liberty of the individual. Countries must promote it for the socio-economic as well as the overall well-being of its citizens.


Insta Links:

Demolition drives may challenge the rule of law


Mains Links:

What makes the Rule of Law different from the Rule by Law? Explain the principles that emerge as the basis of the Rule of law and the role of the judiciary in ensuring their constitutionality.


Prelims Links

Which of the following are regarded as the main features of the “Rule of Law”? (UPSC 2018)

  1. Limitation of powers
  2. Equality before law
  3. People’s Responsibility to the Government
  4. Liberty and civil rights


Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Answer: C


“Rule of Law Index” is released by which of the following? (UPSC 2018)

(a) Amnesty International

(b) International Court of Justice

(c) The office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights

(d) World Justice Project


Answer: D