ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is the Rule of Law a Rhetorical Ideal?

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It is needless to mention that the rule of law ideally means that no one, including the government and even the interpreters and defenders of the law, are above the purview of the law. The rule of law, within the framework of constitutional morality, constitutes one of the most important standards to evaluate the actions of the government. Ideally, every citizen is expected to know the importance of the rule of law on the grounds that it offers protection to everyone against the arbitrary actions taken by the government and its executive agencies. The determinate thrust of the rule of law rules out the possible use of any “rule by the bulldozer,” since the latter is not informed by the value of justice.

The concept of the rule of law acquires its legal meaning and significance primarily within such enabling conditions where due process of law needs to be followed by the government, which is elected to power both constitutionally and democratically. Constitutional morality, therefore, demands that the government in power sincerely practises the principle of the rule of law that is aimed at protecting the people’s right to natural justice, where justice is defined in terms of the law that rules and regulates the possible arbitrariness or high-handedness of a government’s action. Put differently, the rule of law which acquires its validity through a constitutionally laid down due process offers protection to the ones whose innocence can be hypothetically proved by following due process of law. Similarly, due process plays a crucial role in bringing a sense of fairness to the quantum of punishment that is decided through this process. Such a process, if stretched too long in time, also becomes counter­productive to the very principle of natural justice. Those undertrials languishing in Indian jails for many years are a disturbing pointer to the often evoked but regressive principle “justice delayed is justice denied.” It obviously means that the legal system is sluggish in following the principle of natural justice both in terms of depriving the undertrials the advantage of accessing due process of law, and in terms of putting decisive checks on the government’s constant efforts to use extralegal methods that are used to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

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Updated On : 29th Apr, 2023
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