The rule of law has a number of different meanings and corollaries. Its primary meaning is that everything must be done according to law. Applied to the powers of government, this requires that every government authority which does some act which would otherwise be a wrong, or which infringes a man’s liberty, must be able to justify its action as authorized by law and in nearly every case this will mean authorized directly or indirectly by act of parliament. Every act of governmental power i.e. every act which affects the legal rights, duties or liberties of any person, must be shown to have a strictly legal pedigree. The affected person may always resort to the courts of law, and if the legal pedigree is not found to be perfectly in order the court will invalidate the act, which he can then safely disregard.
The concept of rule of law is the outcome of the legal and political experience of people. Rule of law embodies the hard fought gains in the common law traditions of England. It is the culmination of a long and bitter struggle of the common lawyers against royal tyranny. The doctrine of supremacy of parliament in England meant that the subject had no guaranteed rights which the parliament could not change. The liberties of the subject were mere implications of two fundamental postulates. The first was that a British subject may say or do as he pleased, provided, he did not violate any substantive law or infringe on the rights of others. It was said the right to swing one own arm could only be up to the nose of the next man. The second postulates was that public authorities have only such powers as were expressely authorized by common law or the statutes. As supremacy of parliament need not necessarily mean legitimacy, need arose to find out ways for protection from the power of parliament itself
THREE COMPONENTS OF THE CONCEPT
Parlismentary supremacy could be checked only be the doctrine of government of enumerated powers under a written constitution and by making some rights, such a sthe right of life, to liberty to reputation, beyond the reach of parliament. From time immemorial, the presence for an ammutable higher law acting as limitation on all sources of temporal power was recognized as natural law. But, its practical derivatives was the bill of rights which withdrew the rights to life and liberty from the vicissitudes of the political controvercy and placed them beyond the reach of the majorities.
There are three essential components of the concept of rule of law. The first is that the law is supreme over the acts of both government and private persons. There is now law for all. The second is that the rule of law requires for its operation the making of just laws which embody and give expression to the more general and somewhat amorphous normative principles of rule of law. Rights and duties after all may exist on paper but those who are unimpressed by pieces of paper may still have a healthy respect for threats of imprisonment.
The third is that the exercise of public power must find its ultimate source in some legal rule and the relationship between the state and the individual must be regulated only by law. This third principle is the bond that unites the governors and the governed. If this obligation of the government is broken, ten it would be unrealistic to except a voluntary, unilateral adherence to law by the citizenry.
Rule of law said dicey in 1885 means the absolute supremacy predominace of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power and excludes the existence of arbitrariness of prerogative, or even wide discretionary authority on the part of the government. He claimed that Englishmen were ruled by law alone that no man was punishable merely by government own fiat; he could be punished only for a distinct breach of law extablished in a ordinary legal manner before rdinary courts.
Another significance which dicey attribyted to the concept of rule of law was equality before law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of land administered by the ordinary law courts. Dicey vehelmently criticized the system of droit administraif prevailing in france. Under that system there were separate administrative tribunals prevailing in france between the government and the citizens and the officials in the official capacity were protected from the ordinary law of the land and from the jurisdiction of the ordianary courts and were subject to official law administered by official bodies.
Dicey assumed that there should be complete equality between government and officials on the other hand and citizens on the other. But the fact remains that government cannot be placed on an equal footing with the citizens in all respects. Government and its officials do enjoy many powers and previlages under the law which citizens do not. It is fallacious to place government and citizens on the same footing because inequalities between the two are inherent in the very nature of poltical society.
The first basic value derivable from rule of law is that the administration does not enjoy any power outside the law. Bureaucratic powers are to be confined within legal parameters. Administration does not have any inherent powers of its own so as to affect by its own fiat decree any individual right. The bureaucracy has to keep itself within the confines of law and it can excersise no power which is not sanctioned by law . this is the cardinal principle operative in a common law country. It leads to the application of the doctrine of ultra vires and judicial control of admintrative action. This principle ensures that no one can be deprived of his right, liberty or property without authority of law.
Secondly rule of law is associated with the supremacy of the courts. This ensures judicial review of administrative action as courts seek to ensure that the administration does not overstep its legal powers.
Thirdly distinction should be drawn between arbitrary powers and discretionary powers. Traditionally, rule of law denotes absence of arbitrary, irresponsible and uncontrolled pwers. This leads to the proposition that officials can have discretionary powers but not arbitrary powers .forthly admintrative law seeks to explore limitations on admintrative powers. In many situations there are implied limitations over and above what may be imposed by law. From this point of view admintrative law is not be regarded as retarding but instead promoting the rule of law in so far as it discourages arbitrary powers seeks to draw a balance between public power and private interests provides for a control mechanisms over the administrative action and thus ensures excersise of administrative power in a lawful manner