Rule of Law under Indian Constitution (2023)

“The rule of law is the foundation of our democracy, so we must have an independent judiciary, judges who can render judgments regardless of the political winds that are blowing.” –Kennedy, Caroline

Understanding the idea of the rule of law requires understanding that the law, not the ruler or the elected officials chosen by the people, is what governs the state. Although the term “Rule of Law” is frequently used by the Indian judiciary in its rulings, it is not defined anywhere in the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled that the rule of law is one of the fundamental elements of the Constitution and therefore cannot be changed, not even by a constitutional amendment. Rule of law is regarded as a crucial component of effective government.

According to the rule of law, it is necessary for the populace to be governed by accepted laws rather than by the rulers’ arbitrary judgments. For this reason, it is crucial to remember that any rules created should be universally applicable, general and abstract, and known and certain. The fundamental quality of constitutionalism is the legal restraint on the executive branch. According to the concept of constitutionalism, rulers are not above the law because laws are passed by one body and implemented by another, and an independent court is in place to uphold the laws.

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Concept of Rule of Law

The concept of the rule of law is given by Sir Edward Coke, the Chief Justice under James I.The idea of the rule of law has a long history. Around 350 BC, Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle addressed the idea of the rule of law. “Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, in my view, the collapse of the state is not far off,” said Plato. “However, if the law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state”. Law ought to rule, according to Aristotle, and people in positions of authority ought to serve the law.

The French phrase “la principe de legalite,” which denotes a legality principle for the term “Rule of Law”. By this statement, a government founded on legal principles rather than those of men is meant. The rule of law is one of the fundamental tenets of a constitution, and both the constitutions of India and America uphold this idea.

The rule of law doctrine serves as the sole foundation for administrative law. Aristotle highlighted how the principles of justice, fairness, and inclusivity serve as the foundation for the concept of the rule of law. Today, a complex web of fundamental principles is woven into the concept of the rule of law, which also includes justice for all, judicial independence, consistency, transparency, and accountability in administrative law.

Meaning of Rule of Law

Rule of law simply means that no one is above the law and that everyone is subject to the jurisdiction of regular courts of law, regardless of their position or status.

India adopted the idea of the “rule of law,” which is an English concept. No one should be treated arbitrarily or harshly, according to the idea of the rule of law. The term “law” in the phrase “rule of law” refers to the requirement that no man or ruler may reign over another man or society, but only the law. Thus, according to Article 13 of the Indian Constitution, the term “rule of law” refers to the law of the land.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “Rule of Law” refers to legal concepts that are presented as logical propositions that are applied on a daily basis, and are recognised by the relevant authorities.

The scenario in which all citizens as well as the state are governed by the law is described as the “rule of law” in the Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary.

Principles of the Rule of Law

In his influential book “Law and the Constitution,” published in 1885, Professor A.V. Dicey established the notion of Coke and outlined three postulates or principles of the rule of law. According to Professor A.V. Dicey, in order to attain the supremacy of law, the following three principles of postulates must be followed:

  • People’s equality before the law,
  • the supremacy of law, and
  • the rule of law

People’s equality before the law

The second Dicey principle emphasises that everyone is equal before the law, regardless of their position or status, and that all classes are equally subject to the common law of the state to be administered by the common law courts. However, such an aspect is mistaken and in the criticism phase. According to Dicey, all classes must be equally subject to the common law of the land or have equality before the law. He also attacked the French Droit Administrative legal system for having two tribunals to decide the cases of state officials and people separately.

The supremacy of law

According to the first premise, the rule of law is defined as the absence of arbitrary behaviour or broad discretionary authority. It should be ruled by legislation for every guy, to put it simply.

Dicey claimed that English men were subject to the law and the law alone, as well as when there is leeway for the arbitrary rule, and that under both a republic and a monarchy, the use of government discretion must result in a lack of security for the people’s right to legal freedom. The rulers must not have a great deal of discretionary authority in order for them to be subject to existing laws rather than being able to enact their own.

The rule of law

The third Dicey principle is that the Indian judiciary’s actions to uphold private person rights in specific situations lead to the general principles of the Indian Constitution. According to him, numerous state constitutions grant residents specific rights, including the right to personal liberty and freedom from arrest (countries). These rights can only be made available to the public once they are legitimately enforceable in courts of law. Every decision made by the administration must have legal support and be carried out in line with the law, according to Dicey’s definition of the rule of law. In the modern era, the idea of the rule of law opposes the practice of giving the government arbitrary powers and also ensures that everyone is bound by the common laws of the land and denotes no deprivation of his rights and liberties by governmental action.

Rule of Law Under the Indian Constitution

Rule of law has been crucial in the development of Indian democracy. The United States and England were the two options available to the Constitution’s framers at the time. A few of the rules were taken directly from the USA, while others came from England. Our founding fathers took the rule of law from England and incorporated many of its principles into the Indian Constitution. No one is thought to be superior to the Indian Constitution, which is regarded as being paramount. The preamble also makes reference to the rule of law, and Part III of the Indian Constitution explicitly states this idea.

Under Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution, one may file a complaint with the Supreme Court or the High Court in the event that their rights have been violated. The legal values of justice, equality, and liberty are infused throughout the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution must be followed when enforcing any laws passed by the Central or State governments. Any legislatively enacted law that conflicts with the Constitution’s tenets would be deemed invalid.

The Supreme Court of India is authorised by Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to grant writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari. In order to protect the “Rule of law,” the Supreme Court is also granted the authority of judicial review. This allows it to stop any violations of the law.

Role of Indian Judiciary

There are numerous instances where the idea of the rule of law has been raised and clarified. The following are a few of the cases:

Shivkant Shukla v. ADM Jabalpur

The “Habeas Corpus case” is another name for this incident. When it comes to the rule of law, this is one of the most significant cases. The honourable court was asked whether there was any other kind of rule of law in India outside Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The suspension of Articles 14, 21, and 22 enforcement was related to the declaration of an emergency.

Haryana State v. Som Raj

According to the ruling, in this case, the presumption of the rule of law—upon which the entire constitutional structure is predicated—is the lack of arbitrary power.

Raghubir Singh v. Union of India

The court in this case concluded that the decision of the higher courts, in this case, has a significant influence on how the people live their lives and how the state operates.

Kerela State v. Keshvananda Bharti

In this case, the Supreme Court emphasised the importance of the doctrine of basic structure’s concept of the rule of law.

Union of India v. Maneka Gandhi

The Supreme Court ruled that Article 14 prohibits arbitrariness in this case.


It is clear from the explanation above that the Rule of Law is the best means of achieving the goal of legal supremacy. The court, which links the application of the law with people’s human rights, also makes some attempts. The court is developing a plan by which it can compel the government to build the capacity of its citizens to exercise their rights in a proper and meaningful manner, as well as to comply with the law.

It is clear from the explanation above that the Rule of Law is the best means of achieving the goal of legal supremacy. The court, which links the application of the law with people’s human rights, also makes some attempts. The court is developing a plan by which it can compel the government to build the capacity of its citizens to exercise their rights in a proper and meaningful manner, as well as to comply with the law.

Sir Edward Coke, the Chief Justice during King James I’s reign and the concept’s creator, argued that the King should be subject to both God and the law, established the supremacy of the law over the executive branch, and maintained that there is nothing higher than the law.

Written By- Harasees Kaur
BA LLB (Hons.)
Lovely Professional University


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