Importance of Rule of Law


The rule of law means the law pre-eminent and superior to the rule of any human leader. It presupposes that the law is above any individual in the system and should be obeyed by all. It is a principle of governance in which all persons including the state itself are all accountable and answerable to laws of the land which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. The rule of law holds that the law must be prospective, well-known, and have characteristic of generality, equity and certainty. Under the rule of law, the law is pre-eminent and can serve as a check against the abuse of power.
The rule of law has been considered as one of the key dimension that determine the quality and good governance of a country. When a political leader takes the oath of office, they affirm that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any human leader. They then set up measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy.
The rule of law implies rights and freedoms; it implies an independent judiciary and social, economic and cultural conditions conducive to human dignity. Credit for popularizing the expression “the rule of law” in modern times is usually given to the popular British Jurist, Professor A.V. Dicey. In 1885, he formulated the three interpretations of the rule of law in his book entitled “Introduction to the Law of the Constitution”, as:
(i) The supremacy of the law
(ii) Equality before the law
(iii) Fundamental human right of the individuals.

A. The Supremacy of the Law: This aspect explains that nobody should be punished or subjected to any degrading or crimetreatment or punishment except for a breach of law proven in an ordinary court. A person is presumed innocent and subjected to fair and public trial without undue delay until pronounced guilty by ordinary court devoid of secret trials. This also entails that the law is above every citizen and should not be used to oppress the weak and the minorities by the government and their agents.

B. Equality Before the LawThis entails that no one is above the law of the land. There should be equal access to the law legal process; and a rational and propotionate approach to punishment. This recommends fairness and equal access to justice, rights and freedoms. Nobody is above the other under the law. The law binding governor and a president is also binding ordinary citizens and if they break the law; they should be subjected to the same fair trial and punishment if found guilty by the law courts.

C. Fundamental Liberty of the Individuals:
This entails that the judicial decisions are binding and courts should have the power of judicial review over the way in which the other principles are implemented. It implies that the rule of law includes the results of judicial decisions determining the rights of private persons which are alienable. These rights of citizens should be adequately safeguarded and protected by strong and independent judiciary. The fundamental rights of citizens are :
Right to life
Right to freedom of expression
Right to work
Right to vote and be voted for
Right to freedom of association
Right to education
Right to social security, etc.

Importance of Rule of Law
(I) The rule of law helps to institute social justice in the society. It develops social, economic an cultural conditions conducive to human dignity. That is why it is regarded as the foundation of a civilized society.
(ii) The rule of law prevents tyranny and bad governance. It prevents the government and their agents from infringing on the rights and freedom of ordinary citizens.
(III) The rule of law protects the rights and freedom of citizens; most especially the minorities in a Democratic system. It allow for equity and fair treatment of citizens irrespective of their status.
(IV) It promotes accountability of the government to the law and to the people upon whom political sovereignty resides.
(V) It promotes political participation as against political apathy of the citizens.
(VI) The rule of law strengthens democracy. It protects democracy and serve as the foundation.

There are some problems that may stand as impediment to the smooth application of the rule of law. Some of them are as follows:
Under international law; ambassador and high commissioners are not subject to punishment under the law of the country where they reside when they disobey the law. This is because they enjoy diplomatic immunity. They can only be repatriated to their country.
When there is a civil unrest, the government may call for a state of emergency where all Democratic structures will be suspended pro-tem-pore.
Also, a mentally deranged person who is unable cannot be allowed to stand trial.
In Nigeria, the chief executives, that is, the president and the state governors as well as legislators and judges enjoys immunity under the law.
Another problem of the rule of is the use of special courts, for example, tribunals etc. To handle cases which may in turn pervert justice.
The rule of law cannot be upheld in a system where there is no democratic government.
The rights of the citizen is limited by the respect for the rights of the other citizens for example, citizens have freedom of expression, but they are not allowed under the law to say things that may affect the dignity and personality of other citizens.

Limitations of the Rule of Law
There are certain impediments, which limit the successful operation of the rule of law. 

1. The principles of equality before the seems impossible. The positions of certain officials and institutions like the President of a country, judges of various courts, foreign ambassadors and their staff,parliamentarians are all given some privileges and immunities in certain areas of the law. In these areas, they are immune from operation of the rule of law. For example, a diplomat cannot be prosecuted in a country in which her serves. When foreign diplomats contravene the law of a country where they are accredited, they are at worst, sent back to their home countries. Also legislators are duly protected as far as their pronouncement and actions on the floor of the parliament are concerned. Similarly, judges are immune from legal actions arising from their judicial functions. Thus it could be argued that the principle of equality before the law does not exist in reality. 

2. The discretionary power granted to civil servants, corporations, managers, chief executives of companies and other government functionaries negate the rule of law in practice. As the activities of government ectendeinto new fields as a result of development, government officials have wide power to make and administer statutory regulations as it concerns their corporation, companies and institutions. 

3. It is discovered that in practice many people accused of serious offense are kept in police or prison custody for month or years. This disregard the principle of the rule of law which states that no one should be punished unless after convinction by the ordinary court of law. 

4. The idea of special courts or tribunals is another negation of the principle of the rule of law. This states that all offences and all people should be tried in the ordinary courts of the land. The rule of law guarantees right to appeal against the judgement of a lower court which special tribunals do not grant against their judgement. 

5. In time of national emergency, such as war, be it internal or external, disaster, etc individual can be conscripted into the army; can be detained indefinitely without trial etc.

The Success of the Rule of Law in a Nation 
1. If the rule of law must succeed the Constitution must define the limit of government and the rights and obligations of the governments. 

2. Those who enforce the law must be deemed to be indiscriminately fair to all and not to be constrained by legal rules. 

3. The judiciary must be totally independent of both the executive and the legislature. 

4. There should no imprisonment without due process of law (trial)

5. The rule of law can also succeed in a nation with political democracy, means of production socialized and democratized. 

6. The law in it majestic impartiality should forbid the rich and the poor to “sleep under the bridge, to beg in the streets and steal bread”.

About Aiseosa 258 Articles
I'm simply known as Sosa. A well known programmer and founder of the defunct Lectures Portal, Simplicity is my nature.

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