Skip to content

Rule of law – What it is?

Rule of Law:—

Introduction:— There are two main principles relating natural justice. 1. nemojudex in causasua (the rule against bias) and 2. audialterampartem (no one ought to be condemned unheard). If the State or any public authority acts beyond the scope of its power and thereby causes a specific legal injury to a person or to a determinate class or group of persons, it would be a case of private injury actionable in the manner discussed in the preceding paragraphs. So also if the duty is owed by the State or any public authority to a person or to a determinate class or group of persons, it would give rise to a corresponding right in such person or determinate class or group of persons and they would be entitled to maintain an action for judicial redress. But if no specific legal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate class or group of persons by the act or omission of the State or any public authority and the injury is caused only to public interest, the question arises as to who can maintain an action for vindicating the rule of law and setting aside the unlawful action or enforcing the performance of the public duty. If no one can maintain an action for redress of such public wrong or public injury, it would be disastrous for the rule of law, for it would be open to the State or a public authority to act with impunity beyond the scope of its power or in breach of a public duty owed by it. The Courts cannot countenance such a situation where the observance of the law is left to the sweet will of the authority bound by it, without any redress if the law is contravened. The view has therefore been taken by the Courts in many decisions that whenever there is a public wrong or public injury caused by an act or omission of the State or a public authority which is contrary to the Constitution or the law, any member of the public acting bona fide and having sufficient interest can maintain an action for redressal of such public wrong or public injury. The strict rule of standing which insists that only a person who has suffered a specific legal injury can maintain an action for judicial redress is relaxed and a broad rule is evolved which gives standing to any member of the public who is not a mere busy-body or a meddlesome interloper but who has sufficient interest in the proceeding.” See. B.P. Singhal vs Union Of India & Anr, W.P. (Civil) No. 296/2004, Dt. 07-05-2010.

In a system governed by rule of law, discretion when conferred upon executive authorities, must be confined within clearly defined limits. The rule of law from this point of view means that decisions should be made by the application of known principles and rules and in general, such decisions should be predictable and the citizen should know where he is. If a decision is taken without any principle or without any rule it is unpredictable and such a decision is the antithesis of a decision taken in accordance with the rule of law, S.G. Jaisinghani v. Union of India, AIR 1967 SC 1427: (1967) 2 SCR 703: (1967) 1 ITJ 903: 65 ITR 34. 

 The rule of law has really three basic and fundamental assumptions one is that law-making must be essentially in the hands of a democratically-elected legislature; the other is that even in the hands of a democratically-elected legislature, there should not be unfettered legislative power; and lastly there must be an independent judiciary to protect the citizen against excesses of executive and legislative power, Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab(1982) 3 SCC 24: 1982 SCC (Cri) 535. 

 The rule of law is not merely public order. The rule of law is social justice based on public order. The law exists to ensure proper social life. Social life, however, is not a goal in itself but a means to allow the individual to live in dignity and development himself. The human being and human rights underlie this substantive perception of the rule of law, with a proper balance among the different rights and between human rights and the proper needs of society. The substantive rule of law “is the rule of proper law, which balances the needs of society and the individual”. This is the rule of law that strikes a balance between society’s need for political independence, social equality, economic development and internal order, on the one hand and the needs of the individual, his personal liberty and his human dignity on the other. It is the duty of the Court to protect this rich concept of the rule of law. (Para 131), National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India(2014) 5 SCC 438.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply