Posted by / Monday 19 December 2016 / No comments

The features of Rule of Law

Rule of law has two definitions, the classical meaning as proposed by A. V. Dicey and the modern definition by the New Delhi declaration in 1959 at a meeting of the International Commission of Jurists.

According to A. V. Dicey, in his classical opinion, Rule of Law means the law is supreme. In other words, the law is the highest authority of the land, in the absence of which nothing else can prevail. Therefore, the law does not reside in the bosom of anybody.

The contemporary definition, as developed by the International Commission of Jurists states that it is the conditions, structures, institutions, processes and procedures that must exist so that the individual can enjoy his life in dignity, security and prosperity.

Certainty of the law
This means that at all times the law must be clear on exactly what it is. There should be no ambiguity about what the law is. This way, individual citizens can be aware and comply appropriately.

Supremacy of the law
The law is the highest reference point in every situation. The law must not reside in the bosom of any individual or group of individuals. If this happens, the law can be changed at will to the detriment of the ordinary citizen.

Equality before the law
This means that the laws of the land must apply to every individual equally, irrespective of the person’s sex, religion, political inclination, status in society etc. The judicial system must apply to everybody equally for as long as that person is under the jurisdiction of the particular law.

Right to personal freedom
The rights and freedoms of the individual must be guaranteed and respected. This feature posits that the rights of the individual are inherent in the individual and must be what the rulers say it is.

Laws must not take retrospective effect
Another feature of the modern concept of Rule of Law is that the law must not be passed to take effect from a date in past. For example, an act which was not punishable in the past must not be made punishable on a future date after it has been committed.

Independent judiciary
The judiciary must be free and independent of any other organ of state. Nobody, group of persons or institution of state must interfere in the carrying of justice in the state. This is to ensure that the rights and liberties of the citizens are protected at all times.

1. a. Define the term Rule of Law. [3 marks
    b. Highlight four features of Rule of Law. [12 marks]

2.  Highlight six features of the concept of Rule of Law.

3. In which six ways can you determine the existence of Rule of Law in a country?

4. Highlight five things you expect to see in a country that practices Rule of Law. [15 marks]

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