Origin and Concept of the Rule of Law

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The idea of the rule of law can be traced back to at least the time of Aristotle who observed that given the choice between a king who ruled by discretion and a king who ruled by law, the later was clearly superior to the former. In more recent times, it is Albert V. Dicey who is credited with providing the logical foundation upon which the modern notion of the rule of law is based. The term ‘rule of law,’ since reformulated by A.V. Dicey in the 19th century, has traditionally meant to include such notions as supremacy of standing law over arbitrary power, equality before the law (which applies also to government officials), and a binding constitutional framework. The rule of law generally refers to two elements; firstly, the recognition that the use of governmental powers should be kept in check to prevent infringement upon civil liberties and secondly, the recognition that law and order should be maintained at all times to ensure a stable upon which the government's work may be done. Dicey’s primary principle concerned the rule of law and discretionary powers. No man could be punished or lawfully interfered by the authorities except for breaches of law. In other words, all government actions must be authorized by the law or government must act within its legal powers. He argued that nobody should be punished, except for a specific breach of law; and that every person irrespective of rank be subject to the law.

Dicey's second principle has the resounding title of ‘equality before the law'. Which means; no man is above the law and everyone, regardless of rank, is subject to the ordinary laws of the land. This reflect the famous quote by Thomas Fuller; “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”. And the final principle concerns individual rights. There is no need for a bill of rights because the general principle of the constitution is the result of judicial decisions determining the rights of the private person. The courts protect them in their decisions by...
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