Civic Education

Rule of Law

Meaningof Rule of Law

The rule of law simply means that every citizen must act in accordance with the law. It is the supremacy of the law over every citizen in the political system. It is the legal principle that law should govern a nation. It basically means that the law should apply to everyone in other words; no one is above the law.

The concept of the rule of law was made popular by  professor A.V Dicey in his book “enspirit de law” in the year 1885.

History of Rule of Law

The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour, including behaviour of government officials. The phrase can be traced back to 16th century Britain, and in the following century the Scottish theologian Samuel Rutherford used the phrase in his argument against the divine right of kings. John Locke defined freedom under the rule of law as follows:

“Freedom is constrained by laws in both the state of nature and political society. Freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of nature. Freedom of people under government is to be under no restraint apart from standing rules to live by that are common to everyone in the society and made by the lawmaking power established in it. Persons have a right or liberty to follow their own will in all things that the law has not prohibited and not be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, and arbitrary wills of others.”

The rule of law was further popularized in the 19th century by British jurist A. V. Dicey. The concept, if not the phrase, was familiar to ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, who wrote “Law should govern”.

Rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law, including lawmakers themselves. In this sense, it stands in contrast to an autocracy, dictatorship, or oligarchy where the rulers are held above the law. Lack of the rule of law can be found in both democracies and dictatorships, for example because of neglect or ignorance of the law, and the rule of law is more apt to decay if a government has insufficient corrective mechanisms for restoring it. Government based upon the rule of law is called nomocracy.

Principles of the rule of law

  1. Principle of impartiality: This principle states that the law should not be partial to anybody .This means that no one should be punished of any offence except he/she has been found guilty by the court.
  2. Principle of equality before the law: This principle states that all men must be equal before the law of the land.
  3. Principle of fair hearing : This principle states that anyone arrested for an offence should be listen to through normal court process before judgment is passed.
  4. Principle of supremacy of the law :this principle states that the law of the land is always the final authority.
  5. Right to appeal :this states that when a person is bot satisfied with the judgement of a lower court , he has the right to appeal.

Processes of Rule of Law

The rule of law ensures human liberty in the following ways :

  1. The rule of law ensures that an individual should not be made to suffer any loss of personal liberty in any way except he/she is found z
  2. The rule of law helps citizen and non citizen to enjoy their rights as it is claimed in the constitution.
  3. The rule of law does not allow autocratic rule by the Government.
  4. The rule of law forbids an offender to be arrested without being told the offence he /she has committed.
  5. The rule of law entails total supremacy of the law over everyone thereby making everyone does their duties according to the law.


  1. What is the meaning of Rule of Law?
  2. What is the importance of Rule of Law ?
  3. What are the processes of Rule of Law?

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