The Rule of Law: Meaning and Principles

The principle of rule law emanates from the works of A.V Dicey in 1885. Once a person hears of this principle, the first thing that gets into his/her in A.V Dicey.

In this article, we’ll explore this term. We shall look at the meaning of the principle, and we shall also examine those principles one after the other as outlined by A.V Dicey.

Definition | Meaning of rule of law

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Rule of law is a principle that bothers on the supremacy of the law. In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the law is above everyone and no one is equal to or above it. It is also of the opinion that everyone is equal before the law. Everyone is bound to suffer the same level of punishments no matter the cultural, socio-economic status.

Drawing from the definition, we should know that this principle as a whole bothers on law and its powers.

Principles of the Rule

The principle has four major aspects, namely:

  1. Equality
  2. Impartiality
  3. The rights man
  4. Law and order

The principle of equality

This principle entails that all citizens are equal before the law of the land. No one is above the law, not even the most powerful man. The law which applies to a king, president or Governor also applied to his servants or the governed.

In the eyes of everyone, the King or Governor is above all and ought to gain respect from all the citizens. It is right for the sake of lawfully constituted authority. However, in the eyes of the law, everyone is equal.

No one should get preferential treatment for any reason. In addition, if an ordinary person goes in for 10 years imprisonment for stealing another’s belonging, the king should also go in for 10 years imprisonment for stealing same.

Principle of impartiality

In summary of this rule, it states that no one should be punished unless tried under the ordinary court of law and found guilty or convicted. In other words, no one should take the law into his hands by beating or punishing a suspect when he has not be tried.

An accused person will be regarded and treated as innocent untill found guilty by the law courts. Finally, under this principle, everyone should be tried under the same relevant court of law using same procedure. No special panel or tribunal should be mischievously constituted to try any matter.

The principle of rights of man

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This principle is of the opinion that each State should grant certain fundamental rights to its citizens. They should also be capable of protecting those rights.

Fundamental human rights are inalienable. Inalienable rights means, basic human rights which cannot be taken away and should not be taken away. No government officer or person should deprive another of his rights.

Certain rights of the citizens are often contained in the Constitution of a country. And the Constitution works to protect those rights and punish anyone who may deprive another of his rights.

Some of these rights include:

  • Right to life
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of education
  • Right to freedom of movement
  • Freedom from torture
  • Freedom of religion, etc.

They are numerous. It is contained in chapter four of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (section 33 – 45).

The principle of law and order

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This principle implies that there should be sufficient laws to guide the conducts of men in the society. In other words, the laws of the land should be stated clearly and it should be a yardstick to both the government and the citizens. All persons are expected to act according to the laid down rules and regulations.

Once anyone goes against the rules, he or she should go in for the punishment. However, the punishment accompanying each offence should also be stated.

The essence of stating such is to ensure that no one suffers wickedness from other human beings. So, the law should be a guide to everything. In fact, it should be the citizens’ conducts manual.

Conclusion – Criticism

Looking at the different principles above, we see that not all the principles exist as some are just known theoretically. For instance, the principle of equality is not actually functional in our Societies. Our elected representatives do not enforce that principle fully.

When an ordinary person steals, he’ll receive the beating of his life but when a government officer embezzles the nation’s funds, he may not even be tried let alone punished. When such practice exists, it means that the principle of equality and impartiality are no longer active in the society.

See Also: Judicial Independence And the Essential Requirements for the Independence of the Judiciary

Do well to drop your own opinion, questions or criticism to enable us update this post from time to time.

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