Indian constitutional provisions relating to the Rule of Law

“The bedrock of our democracy is the “Rule of Law” and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decision independent of the political winds that are blowing- Caroline Kennedy


The expression “Rule of Law” plays a vital role in the administrative law. Through this tool protection is been provided to the people against the arbitrary action of the administrative authorities. This expression has been derived from the French phrase “la principle de laglite” that is a government based on principles of law. In simple words it is the state of affairs in a country where in a main the law rules.

The object of law is to maintain public order by compiling individual to behave in a legal manager and also to provide protection to individual by defining the powers of the government. Thus it provides protection to individual from unlawful action of a government.

“Rule of law” has been originated by Sir Edward Coke, he expressed that the king must be under God and Law. Later on this concept was developed by A.C. Dicey. According to Dicey’s rule of law means supremacy of law, equality before the law and predominance of legal spirit.

Indian view point

In order to develop Indian democracy Rule of Law has played an important role at the time of framing of constitution. The framers has to option that is USA and England. Some of the provisions were adopted from England and Rule of Law is one of them. According to Rule of Law Indian constitution is considered to be supreme and no one is above Indian constitution. Rule of Law is also given impliedly in the Preamble and such concept is enshrined in part III of Indian constitution.

In case of violation of such rights one can approach to Supreme Court or High Court under Article 32 and 226 respectively. The constitution of India is enriched with these principles of law in many of its provisions. For example the object of achieving equality, liberty and justice are reflected in the Preamble to the Indian constitution.

Indian constitutional provisions

  • Article13

Part III of Indian Constitution guarantees the Fundamental Rights and Article 13(1) makes it clear that all laws in force made in inconsistent with the provisions of part III dealing with Fundamental Right shall to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

Article 13(2) provides that the state should not make any law which takes away or abridges the Fundamental Right and any Law made in contravention of this clause shall, to extent of the contravention, be void.

Therefore Constitution of India has been made the Supreme Law of the country and others law are required to be in conformity with the constitution and any law which is in violation with any provision of the constitution is declared invalid.

  • Article 14

It provides Equality before the Law or of the Equal Protection of Law

  • Equality before the law implies the absence of any special privilege in favour of any individual.
  • Equal protection of law implies equal protection of all alike in the same situation and under like circumstances[1].

Article 14 forbids class legislation but it does not forbid classification which rests upon reasonable grounds of distribution[2]. The importance of doctrine of reasonable classification should be examined in the light of the doctrine of arbitrariness involved by the Supreme Court. Article 14 strikes all the arbitrariness in state action because these actions will involve negation of equality[3]. If the action of the state is arbitrary or irrational it would be treated as being against Article 14. An act which is arbitrary cannot be valid on the ground of reasonable classification. Right to equality affords protection not only against discriminatory laws passed by the legislature but also prevents arbitrary discretion been invested in the executive[4].

  • Article 19

It guarantees six Fundamental Freedoms to every citizen of India.  Although right to this freedom is not absolute but subject to the reasonable restrictions which may be imposed by the state. But these restrictions which are applied to Article 19 will be valid only if

  • Restrictions have been imposed by the state which are been defined in Article 12.
  • Restrictions have been imposed by law and the law is valid law, the executive cannot impose the restrictions without there being a law authorising to do so.
  • Restriction must be on the ground mentioned in clause (2) to (6) of the Article 19.
  • Restriction must be reasonable.


  • Article 20

Article 20(1) provides that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for the violation of the law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence.

Article 20(2) no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

Article 20(3) makes it clear that no person accused of the offence shall be compelled to be witnessed against himself.

  • Article 21

It guarantees to all citizens the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. The expression Right to Life has given very wide construction. With the passage of time and coming up of new pronouncements by Supreme Court, Right to Life has evolved as widest Right. Some of the land mark judgments of this Article 21 are Olga Tellis & Ors vs Bombay Municipal Corporation[5], Maneka Gandhi VS Union of India[6], Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union of India[7].It was been inferred that Article 21 is enshrined with  Right to Personal Liberty , Right to Travel abroad[8], Right to Privacy[9], Right to Speedy Trial[10].

It was held by Supreme Court that long delay in delivery of justice violates “Rule of Law” and it has adverse impact on common man’s access to justice, thus Supreme Court has requested the law commission to subsist its recommendation on measures to be taken to ensure timely justice[11]

  • Other Articles

Article 265 provides that tax can only be levied or collected by the authority of law.

Article 300-A provides no person shall be deprived of his property merely by executive order or executive direction[12].

Prevention and enforcement of Rule of Law

The constitution of India does not establish the Rule of Law but also provides for its protection and enforcement. Judiciary has been made the guardian and protector of the constitution.

Article 141 provides that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all the court accept the Supreme Court within the territory of India

Article 142 provides that Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such degree or make such order as necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. Any degree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such a manner as may be prescribed or under any law made by the parliament.

Article 144 makes it clear that all the authorities in the territory of India shall act in aid of Supreme Court. The authorities who do not comply with these directions shall be liable for contempt of court[13].

For the enforcement of supremacy of the constitution which is Supreme Law of the country the High court in the Supreme Court has been conferred with the power of judicial review[14]. The jurisdiction under Article 32, 136,226 and 227 cannot be excluded even by the constitutional amendment[15]. The judicial review is the part of basic structure of the constitution. The Article 32 makes it clear that in case of infringement of fundamental right the right to move the Supreme Court is itself a fundamental right. An Article 226 empowers the High Court to issue order writs etc. for enforcement of any of the Fundamental Right and also enforcement of any other right.

Judicial pronouncements

  • Keshvanand Bharti v State of Kerala[16]

In this case, SC held the concept of Rule of Law as one of the most important aspect of Doctrine of basic structure.

  • Maneka Gandhi v UOI[17]

In this case SC declared that Article 14 strikes against arbitrariness and Article 21 is of widest amplitude. It includes variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man.

  • UOI v Raghubir Singh[18]

In this case it was held that a considerable degree that governs the lives of the people and regulates the state function flows from decision of SC

  • Som Raj v State of Haryana[19]

In this case it was held that absence of arbitrary power is postulate of Rule of Law upon which the whole constitutional edifice is dependent.

[1] State of UP V Deoman AIR 1969 SC 1125

[2] Charanjeet Lal V UOI AIR 1951 SC 41

[3] Maneka Gandhi V UOI AIR 1978 SC 597

[4] Pylee M. V Constitutional Government in India

[5] 1986 AIR 180

[6] 1978 AIR 597

[7] 1984 AIR 802

[8] Satwant Singh Sawhney v ass, A..P.O

[9] State of Maharashtra v Madhukar Narayan Madikar

[10] Hussainara v State Of Bihar

[11] Imtiyaz ahmed v state of U.P.

[12] Bhishamabar Dayal Chandra Mohan v State of UP

[13] Azhar v Municipal Corporation

[14]  As to Judicial Review, see chapter XII

[15] Indira Nehru Gandhi V Raj Narain

[16] (1973) 4 SCC 225

[17] 1978 AIR 597

[18] 1989 AIR 1933

[19] 1990 AIR 1176

Author: Ridhi Gupta,
Panjab University and 3rd year

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